Modern slavery may appear in different forms and a common assumption is that modern slavery only occurs in extreme circumstances, such as kidnapping, people trafficking and the exploitation of illegal migrants and children.
However there is no denying that slavery, in the form of forced labour, is an issue in many industries including Construction.
Gangs regulary target migrant workers and those who are unsure of rules and UK regulations.
Passports are taken ,people are forced to live in cramped conditions and are over worked with little or no pay.
The gangs leave workers with little to no option but to obey to their demands for fear of violence or threats to ‘report them’ to immigration services.
Because the UK Construction industry is an area of particular vulnerability and labour is sourced through Sub-Contractors or agents, many companies have little control over who is placed on their sites as the recruitment side is undertaken by the agency,
Looking for the signs and reporting to authorities will help put a stop to those being exploited.
How can agencies help?
Agencies should ensure they have measures in place to spot people who are being exploited. They should also have ‘Anti Slavery’ policies in place.
A few ways agencies can spot those who are being exploited include:
- Seeing the same bank account being used for more than 1 operative (but not under the correct names)
- Shared addresses.
- No actual contact with the operative, but contact only with someone who ‘translates’ for them.
- Timesheets coming back with long hours and no breaks.
- ‘Too good to be true’ rates.
Limiting the risk
At SLS our onboarding procedure eliminates the above by:
- Meeting with operatives face to face.
- Ensuring our contracts are filled and signed by each individual worker.
- Making sure a copy of our ‘Anti Slavery’ policy has been read and signed.
- Copies of passports/right to work and immigration documents are obtained upon onboarding.
- Having regular weekly contact with the operatives.
- Ensuring the operatives can read and understand English, for H&S reasons and to be able to follow instructions.
By having these procedures in place it helps tackle the issue and gives us the opportunity to alert officials of any suspected activity. The stricter the procedures are, the harder it is for these gangs to operate.
We all have an important role to play in recognising exploitation. If you feel someone is at risk or vulnerable you must report it.
To report a suspicion or seek advice you can contact the Modern Slavery Helpline confidentially on 08000 121 700.
This is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
If you feel someone is in danger or underage call 999 immediately.