Modern slavery – what are the signs?

Modern slavery – what are the signs?

Posted on Jun 03, 2016

Modern slavery - what are the signs? 



Modern slavery, trafficking and exploitation is a global problem and can include victims brought from overseas, as well as vulnerable people here in the UK, being forced to work illegally against their will.

Before we go any further… okay, we know what you’re thinking: ‘How is this relevant to me?’.

Would you feel it’s more relevant if you knew that over 3,000 people – including almost 1,000 children – were referred as potential victims in 2015 in the UK?

How about if you knew that just last week three members of the same family in Wales were jailed for a combined total of over 24 years for crimes relating to modern slavery against 46-year-old victim Michael Hughes?

Right, so we’ve got your attention now.

This is an enormous and serious issue and it’s happening right now in this country.


‘Total disregard for humanity’

BBC News reported that recent modern slavery victim Michael Hughes was made to live in a 4ft-wide garden shed with no heating or running water for two years.

He was ordered to work long hours – even when he had a broken leg – and he would suffer frequent beatings. At the recent trial he said prison was "like a holiday camp" compared to his ordeal in Wales.

Gwent Police’s Chief Superintendent Paul Griffiths said: "The victim suffered considerably through some of the intimidation, threats and violence - but he was emotionally broken and that's what gave the criminals the controlling factor over him."

We covered the basics on what modern slavery is – including the different types – in last week’s blog which can be found here


But what are the signs that someone may be a victim of trafficking and modern slavery?

Here are a few of the common signs to be aware of:

  • not in possession of passport, ID or other documents
  • acting as if under instruction
  • appearing hesitant and letting others speak for them; little eye contact
  • in a situation of dependence – bonded by debt and/or repaying transport costs
  • receiving little or no pay; few or no personal possessions; always in the same clothes
  • no freedom of movement; rarely allowed to travel alone, unfamiliar with their neighbourhood
  • evidence of physical or emotional harm, or deprivation of food, water, sleep, medical care or other necessities
  • poor living conditions – dirty, cramped or overcrowded and possibly living and working at the same address
  • isolation, with little or no social interaction; not in free contact with family or friends and fearful of strangers

Always bear in mind that although a person may display a number of these indicators, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are a victim of modern slavery or trafficking.

However, if you do have a suspicion, you must report it.



What action should I take?

Do not let the potential victim know that you’ve reported it, or that you intend to report it, and don’t consider confronting the traffickers yourself. You must ensure both their safety and your own.

Try to be aware that not all victims necessarily want to be rescued, and there may be instances where reporting your suspicions puts the potential victim at risk.

Employers, business managers and colleagues all have a responsibility to ensure that employees and fellow workers are safeguarded, treated fairly and with dignity. Turning a blind eye is not an option. We’ve gone into more detail on what action organisations should take in last week’s blog. Check it out for more information on this.

Everyone within an organisation needs to keep their ears and eyes open to the possibility of modern slavery. Look out for any of the typical signs, and if you suspect something, speak out.


Train your staff

You can train your staff to be aware of the signs of modern slavery and how to respond to any disclosures with flick learning. Subscribing with flick offers access to all flick courses, plus downloadable guides and resources in the flick library. So why not sign up today?


Modern slavery and trafficking training


Related articles

Forced marriage – what is it? Modern slavery – what is it?

What is forced marriage and what are the effects? What is forced marriage and what are the effects?

Child sexual abuse: how can you spot the signs? Child sexual abuse: how can you spot the signs?


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