Modern Slavery – How to spot the signs

Slavery hasn’t been consigned to the history books – vulnerable people around the world are held in modern slavery including in the UK. By ensuring that more people can recognise and report the signs of modern slavery we can help safeguard victims and stop those responsible. This guide focuses on how organisations can be vigilant to instances of modern slavery.

What is modern slavery?

Modern slavery is an umbrella term covering acts of slavery, servitude, forced or compulsory labour as well as human trafficking. It ultimately involves one person or a group depriving another person of their freedom, for their own personal or commercial gain.

Who does it effect?

Victims of modern slavery are often trafficked from overseas like Eastern Europe, Asia, and Africa. However, vulnerable people in the UK can also fall victim to modern slavery. These people typically come from disadvantaged backgrounds or have fallen on hard times.

Spotting the Signs

It can be difficult to identify cases of modern slavery due to its hidden nature, but there are signs to look out for, and should be considered within the context of other evidence, which will help businesses to identify potential victims:

Physical Appearance

  • Workers may look dirty, unkempt, or malnourished.
  • Signs of phycological abuse leaving them withdrawn or frightened.
  • Signs of physical abuse.

Few or no Possessions

  • Wearing the same clothes.
  • No phone, money or even food.

Evidence of Control Over Movement

  • Dropped off or picked up by another person.
  • Same home address as another employee(s).
  • Doesn’t know home or work address.
  • Acts as if instructed by another.
  • Passport or other documents held by another.
  • Another person speaks on their behalf.
  • Reluctant to speak to managers or authority figures.

A more extensive list of general modern slavery indicators can be found on the Unseen website.

Next Steps

It is important to remember that victims of modern slavery will not self-identify so businesses need to know the signs and have clear avenues for raising concerns. IPHR has launched a new toolkit in partnership with CIWM aimed to provide businesses with a best practice guide on how to address the risks, while safeguarding victims. Access the toolkit here.

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