When we hear the word slavery, we instinctively think of it as a ‘thing of the past’, a relic of centuries old colonial Britain and far removed from the sophisticated employment market we have today.
What is modern slavery?
Sadly however, modern slavery still thrives in Britain today, with the British Government estimating that tens of thousands of people are in modern slavery in the UK today. A person is considered enslaved if they are forced to work against their will; are owned or controlled by an exploiter or ‘employer’; have limited freedom of movement or are dehumanised, treated as a commodity or bought and sold as property.
According to the Anti-Slavery Charity, “most commonly people are trafficked into forced labour in industries such as agriculture, construction, hospitality manufacturing and car washes.”
How do people become modern slaves?
People come to the UK in the hope of escaping poverty or sometimes persecution. Organisations operating abroad purport to offer good jobs in the UK and charge a fee to bring people to the UK. However once here, the job and conditions are completely different to the ones promised. People find themselves in a situation where their living and accommodation costs are higher than their wages, so they become stuck, and often already owe money to their employer (known as debt-bonded). It’s a common form of entrapment into modern slavery.
The Modern Slavery Act 2015
The Modern Slavery Act 2015 requires large commercial organisations to prepare a slavery and human trafficking statement which sets out steps it’s taken to help prevent and eradicate slavery in their business and supply chains. The statement can include:
However, many companies aren’t complying with the act, either choosing not to produce a statement at all, or not properly meeting the minimum legal requirements such as being visible on the company homepage and being signed off by a board director.
Example of a modern slavery case
An example of one high-profile modern slavery case took place in 2015 and involved the use of scores of Lithuanian migrants, lured to the UK on the promise of a better life. The migrants describe their experience as chicken catchers and egg collectors for a firm called, DJ Houghton.
The Lithuanians were victims of violence and were debt-bonded on immediate arrival in the UK, deprived of food, sleep and basic accommodation. They were also forced to urinate and defecate into carrier bags as they worked.
The case was settled for over £1 million in compensation after a high court ruling found DJ Houghton to be guilty of failing to pay the minimum wage; making unlawful deductions from wages and failing to provide adequate provision to eat, drink and rest. Many supermarkets immediately boycotted DJ Houghton because of the way the chicken catchers treated their staff.
How can we help?
Many victims of modern slavery are reluctant or unable, because of fear of reprisal, report their situation to the authorities. This is where SHU Law can help. We can support victims to ensure they get the help they need.
Contact SHU Law on 0114 225 6666.