How widespread is forced labour in the UK
Wednesday, 07 October 2015
Available evidence suggests the number of people in the UK experiencing forced labour may run into thousands. Many are entitled to work here, being EU migrants and UK citizens.

Available evidence suggests the number of people in the UK experiencing forced labour may run into thousands. Many are entitled to work here, being EU migrants and UK citizens.

Likely elements within forced labour include low-skill manual and low-paid work; temporary agency work; specific industrial sectors; and certain non-UK migrant workers.

There is evidence of forced labour in the industries covered by the Gangmasters Licensing Authority. However, forced labour is occurring in other sectors as well, including significant ones, such as care, construction and hospitality.

The definition and scope of forced labour are poorly understood, including differences between human trafficking, slavery and exploitation. Consensus is needed on forced labour indicators relevant for assessing the scope and scale of forced labour in the UK, and to assist legal proceedings. Relatively little case law exists.

Having a stand-alone offence of forced labour and servitude is helpful in separating the problem from that of trafficking people, as research evidence suggests that many victims of forced labour are not trafficked.

Forced labour and trafficking form part of more general labour exploitation, requiring effective criminal justice and workplace rights interventions, and not being seen as an immigration issue.

A strategic approach is needed to tackle forced labour, ensuring that the most vulnerable workers and sectors are properly protected.

Formal, transparent monitoring of the scope and nature of forced labour across the UK is also needed, including a comprehensive approach to data collection.

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