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Slavery, Servitude and Forced Compulsory Labour

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What is Slavery, Servitude and Forced Compulsory Labour?

Modern slavery is defined as the recruitment, movement, harbouring or receiving of children, women or men through the use of force, coercion, abuse of vulnerability, deception or other means for purpose of exploitation.

Modern forms of slavery can include debt bondage, where a person is forced to work for free to pay off a debt, child slavery, forced marriage, domestic servitude and forced labour.

Figures suggest there could be 10,000 and 13,000 victims of slavery in the UK. About 3,000 children are thought to be working in cannabis farms and nail bars (BBC news). Many victims are told their families will be hurt if they leave.

Most modern slavery isn’t visible in the public. It takes place in homes and private farms. There have been examples of slavery, servitude and forced compulsory labour. One example is where a family was jailed for forced labour in Cardiff, as a man was forced to work for the a family for more than 20 years doing building work and road laying, whilst living in a garden shed with no heating or running water for part of it. Another example is where a man was jailed for holding his wife in domestic servitude, where the wife was tortured, forced to do all the chores, and was not allowed to leave home.

Modern slavery happens in the community, so it is important to know the signs that could indicate someone is a victim of this crime. The signs aren’t always obvious, but they may include:

  • Looking scruffy, malnourished or injured
  • Acting anxious, afraid or unable to make eye contact
  • Long hours, wearing unsuitable clothing or have the wrong equipment for the job
  • Living in overcrowded, poorly maintained housing or always have their windows cleaned
  • Behave like they have been instructed by someone else, picked up/dropped off at the same time and place every day or don’t have access to money or identification.

Victims of slavery can be anyone, of any age, ethnicity and nationality. However, it is normally more prevalent among the most vulnerable or within minority or socially excluded groups and individuals.  Poverty is identified as driver for slavery, servitude and forced labour, with people in poverty having to borrow money and then being forced to work off the debt, losing control over their employment conditions and the debt.

Forced or compulsory labour is all work or service that is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily” (International Labour Organization Forced Labour Convention (no.29), 1930)

Forced compulsory labour, also known as Labour Exploitation, is work or service which is exacted from any person under the threat of a penalty and for which the person has not offered themselves voluntarily. It is often seen in the UK in sectors characterised by low-skilled, low-paid labour and among flexible, temporary workers.

Forced Labour offences apply irrelevant of immigration status or entitlement to work. Some sectors are more frequently involved in forced labour, agriculture, food processing and packaging, construction, warehouses and logistics, hospitality and cleaning and manufacturing (sweatshops). To reduce the levels of Labour Exploitation, the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority run a licence scheme for those involved in the fresh produce supply chain.

Domestic servitude is forced labour where the victim is usually expected to work around a person’s home every day and be on call 24 hours a day. Victims can be spouse/partner, family member or someone unrelated.

  • Modern Slavery Act 2015 makes it a criminal offence to hold another person in slavery or servitude or to perform forced or compulsory labour, as well as defining slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour. Introduced Slavery and Trafficking Prevention Orders and Risk Orders.

Introduction of Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention and Risk Orders

  • A Slavery and Trafficking Protection Order (STPO) can only be made if a defendant has been convicted of a trafficking or slavery offence and the court is satisfied that there is a risk they may commit further offences and it is necessary to protect others from harm, a breach is punishable with up to five years imprisonment.
  • Slavery and Trafficking Risk Orders (STRO) can be made without a conviction but is deemed to pose a risk of harm and it is necessary to protect others. A breach is also punishable with up to five years imprisonment.

Welsh Government: Modern slavery guidance for professional

Gangmasters & Labour Abuse Authority: Resources which include leaflets, videos, podcasts and posters

Help and Support

For victims, families and concerned people

If you recognise any of the signs and suspect someone may be a victim of modern slavery, tell someone. To report a suspicion or seek advice contact the Modern Slavery Helpline 24/7 on 08000 121 700. It can also be reported online or by calling 101 at any time, or for those deaf or hard of hearing, use the textphone service 18001 101. To remain anonymous contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. If there is a crime in action or immediate threat to life dial 999.

Kalayaan provide advocacy, advice and support services to ensure justice for migrant domestic workers, who have entered the UK legally with an employer on a domestic worker visa to work in a private household and then exploited, abused and subject to forced labour.

The National Referral Mechanism (NRM) is a single framework centred on a multi-agency approach to victim identification and referral to appropriate support. Police, Immigration, Local Authorities and some non-government organisations can refer suspected victims to the Single Competent Authority (SCA) for a decision. The SCA is part of the Home Office. Referral to the NRM requires consent for adults.

New Pathways and BAWSO provide support to those aged 18 and over whilst Barnardos offer support to those under the age of 18 who are survivors of slavery. New Pathways liberate project offers survivors psychological support, practical advocacy and support to escape exploitative situations, call 01633 250205. Barnardos Modern Slavery Helpline is 0800 0121700.

The Gangmasters & Labour Abuse Authority can help to stop worker exploitation through ensuring that workers’ rights are upheld by calling 03456025020 (option 2) 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday, emailing, calling their reporting line free on 08004320804 or via their website They can provide information and advice on employment rights as can the local Citizen Advice Bureau or through ACAS.