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Home truths - an update on modern slavery in the UK

Posted: 17/04/2018

The top nationality of victims of modern slavery in the UK is British. Overtaking Albanian and Vietnamese nationals, British adults and children are increasingly being referred for support to the National Crime Agency.

According to the charity Unseen, about one in eight of nearly 1,300 slavery cases recorded by the UK’s anti-slavery hotline in 2017 involved the construction industry. At least a third of London’s 100,000 European migrant construction workers have done jobs for no pay and experienced verbal and physical abuse, a survey by Focus on Labour Exploitation (FLEX) found.

The UK’s Anti-Slavery Commissioner and the Rights Lab at the University of Nottingham have collaborated to produce UK based research on modern slavery in the UK. That research can be viewed here.

Lord McColl’s Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill has passed the Committee stage of Parliament without any amendments. It aims to amend the Modern Slavery Act 2015 to provide assistance for a recovery period of 45 days and for a further period of 12 months following confirmation of an individual’s status as a victim of modern slavery.

Last year 43 of the FTSE 100 failed to be compliant with the basic requirements of the Modern Slavery Act 2015. In December 2017 the UK’s Anti-Slavery Commissioner wrote to 25 of these non-compliant FTSE 100 companies. He received responses from around one third. All confirmed that they will take modern slavery more seriously in future. A total of 16 million of the estimated 40 million people globally currently in slavery conditions work within the private sector.

A large number of UK Government suppliers are failing to produce an annual report in accordance with the Modern Slavery Act 2015. The top suppliers account for £27.5 billion in Government contracts. In March 2018, Sancroft International Ltd highlighted that just 58% of the reports on human trafficking and slavery were compliant with the law. Ninety of the 100 suppliers published a report but about 40% of them fail to comply with the disclosure requirements. The Sancroft-Tussell report, Eliminating Modern Slavery in Public Procurement, can be viewed here.

Calls for a public list of all the companies which are obliged to publish an annual report are growing. The UK’s Anti-Slavery Commissioner favours the ability to create this list via current plans to digitise Companies House records. A new report from confirms that 50.8% of organisations (9627 out of 18939) that should have complied by publishing an annual report by now still have no locatable statements.

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