Labour exploitation

Unfortunately there are people that are forced to work long hours for little or no pay, in poor conditions under verbal or physical threats of violence to them or their families. It can occur in various industries including construction, manufacturing, car washes, laying driveways, hospitality, food packaging, agriculture, maritime and beauty (nail bars). Work conditions are usually poor i.e. not provided with protective clothing and the area of work being unsafe.

Control mechanisms are used to keep workers from leaving for example, withholding important documents or debt bondage- this is where a person is forced to work to pay off a debt or loan which cannot be paid off, because the wages are so low or because unreasonable deductions are made.

It is also worth noting that victims are usually housed together in one dwelling, whether that be residential housing or work related accommodation.

Know the signs

  • Withholding of wages or excessive wage reductions
  • Pay that is less than minimum wage
  • Restriction of movement or confinement
  • Imposed place of accommodation (and deductions made for it)
  • Requirement to pay for tools and food
  • Seem under control, told not to speak to others
  • Picked up in a van, same time same place every day
  • Excessive work hours/few breaks
  • Withholding of documents e.g. passport/security card/ bank cards
  • Their employer is unable to produce documents required
  • No access to labour contract
  • Threat or actual physical harm
  • Poor or non-existent health and safety standards
  • Fear of police/authorities

Do you recognise any of these signs in your workplace? On your commute to and from work? Or when going about your daily duties; shopping, going to the gym, walking the dog. Take care to look, see what is happening, and then report to either Modern Slavery Helpline, 08000 121 700, or to Crimestoppers anonymously, 0800 555 111. We are all responsible in contributing valuable intelligence to unearth cases that can be investigated and free those exploited.

The video below provides an insight into Modern Slavery/ Human Trafficking from a Trafficker's view..


Page last reviewed May 2023