Modern slavery – what is it?

Modern slavery – what is it?

Posted on May 27, 2016

Modern slavery – what is it?



It was revealed last week that the 2016 Chelsea Flower Show will feature a ‘Modern Slavery Garden’.

It has been designed by Juliet Sargeant, who is also making history as the first black person to design a garden in the show’s 103-year history.

The Daily Telegraph have highlighted that there are more slaves across the world today than when William Wilberforce had his abolition of slavery bill passed in 1833.

Juliet Sargeant’s Modern Slavery Garden not only celebrates Parliament passing the Modern Slavery Act last year but is intended to highlight the estimated 13,000 people working as slaves in the UK too.


So what exactly is modern slavery?

Modern slavery is a huge and highly under-publicised 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.

They are forced to work in places like brothels, cannabis farms, nail salons, or in agriculture.

In 2013 there were 1,746 cases of modern slavery reported in the UK – an increase of 47% on the previous year. As indicated above, it is suspected, sadly, that the actual numbers are far, far higher than that, and more likely to be in excess of 13,000.

That’s over half of the total amount of people employed by the BBC across the UK.


Who are the victims of modern slavery?

Victims can be men, women, and children of all ages, though it tends to be more prevalent amongst the vulnerable, minority or socially excluded groups.

Those found in the UK come from a range of countries, such as Nigeria, Vietnam, Albania and Romania, but – shockingly – 90 UK nationals were found to be slavery victims in 2013.


What are the types of modern slavery?

Types of modern slavery include:

Child trafficking

Under 18s are moved either internationally or domestically so they can be exploited.

Forced labour

Victims being forced to work against their will for little or no pay, often under threats against them or their families.

Debt bondage

Victims are forced to work to pay off increasing debts that realistically they will never be able to clear.

Criminal exploitation

Victims are forced into crimes such as cannabis cultivation or pick-pocketing against their will, through control and maltreatment.

Sexual exploitation

Victims are forced to perform non-consensual sexual acts against their will, such as prostitution, escort work and pornography.

Domestic servitude

Victims are forced to carry out housework and domestic chores in private households with little or no pay, restricted movement, very limited or no free time, and minimal privacy, often sleeping where they work.


What can I do?

Raising awareness of modern slavery – like Juliet Sargeant will be doing at the Chelsea Flower Show this month – is a great way of helping to combat it.

Employers, business managers and colleagues all have a responsibility to ensure that employees and fellow workers are safeguarded, treated fairly and with dignity.

Organisations must have clear policies in place to prevent modern slavery in order to protect their workforce, their profits and their reputation.

There are two important areas that all organisations should look at: their supply chain and recruitment.


Supply chain


Check your supply chain – the longer it is, the more opportunities there are for exploitation. Make sure you can account for every step of the process – and know exactly who is providing your goods and services.

Let the companies you are doing business with know that any form of exploitation is unacceptable.


Staff recruitment


  • Only use reputable recruitment agencies and ensure that all your staff can legally work in the UK.
  • Check staff have a written contract of employment and haven’t had to pay any fees to obtain work.
  • Check the names and addresses of staff.If there are a number of people listed at the same address, it may indicate high shared occupancy which is often a factor for those being exploited.

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. Turning a blind eye is not an option.


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


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