Forced labour describes the process of deceiving, coercing or forcing somebody to work against their will. This is another form of modern day slavery, and victims are often controlled by their employer with threats, the confiscation of important personal documents, physical harm and the withholding of wages.

This crime affects both migrant populations and British Nationals, occurring largely in low-skilled, low-wage jobs with a fast turnover in which labour standards are unregulated or unenforced. It is most common to find this form of exploitation in industries such as construction, agriculture, factory work and food processing, as well as block paving and tarmacking. There have also been cases documented in nail bars, restaurants and car washes. 

Victims of this particular form of slavery find themselves being drastically underpaid for their work, often into bank accounts that they have limited or no access to themselves. Victims are often made to claim state benefits by traffickers that will then keep the money. 

Victims of forced labour may also be victims of debt bondage, a process by which they are forced into working to repay a large debt that is often not legitimate. 

Despite the hidden nature of this crime, there are specific signs we can look out for that could help us to spot and report instances of forced labour in and around our communities.

  • Physical appearance: Do they seem to have a poor level of hygiene? Do they appear to have suffered physical abuse, or seem to be malnourished? Are they missing the appropriate clothing/equipment in order to do their job safely?
  • Daily routine: Large groups of people being picked up from/dropped off at the same location at similar times each day could be an indication of forced labour.
  • Dependency on employer: Does the person rely on their employer for their accommodation and transport?
  • Missing documents: Does the worker have access to their own personal documents, or are they being held by their employer?

If you suspect that you have spotted signs of forced labour and would like to report your concerns, please contact the Modern Slavery Helpline on 0800 012 1700.