Worker exploitation is widespread across the UK economy, according to a new report that finds that modern slavery is present in 16 sectors.
Agriculture, nail bars, catering, carwashes and construction were all among the top sectors identified for mistreatment by the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) report.
Other industries included food packing, fishing, shellfish gathering, warehouse and distribution, garment manufacturing, recycling, taxi driving, retail, domestic work, and social care.
Overall, there were 5,145 potential victims of modern slavery in 2017 – a term encompassing forced labour and human trafficking - a 35% increase compared with 2016.
Albanian, British and Vietnamese were the top reported nationalities in both years.
Social media is being used to recruit workers who go on to be exploited, with some people arriving in the UK for work that doesn’t exist. Victims tend to live in poor conditions without basic facilities like electricity, heating and water.
Common exploitative practices include non-payment of minimum wages, violence and threats – employers who provide accommodation using this as an additional means of control, threatening to make workers homeless.
Across many of the sectors identified, workers are reportedly not receiving the health and safety training required to fulfil their role. Some sectors report charges to use Personal Protection Equipment.
In waste and recycling the GLAAA found evidence of workers living in shipping containers and porta-cabins which are against planning and health and safety regulations.
In some cases in construction, compensation has been offered to stop victims of serious injuries presenting their complaint to authorities.
Findings were published on 8 May in the GLAA’s report ‘The Nature and Scale of Labour Exploitation Across All Sectors Within The United Kingdom.’ It marks the f first year of the GLAA coming into its new powers to tackle exploitation across the labour market.
Ian Waterfield, Head of Operations at the GLAA, said: “The men and women who work for us are passionate, dedicated and committed. They work tirelessly every day to protect vulnerable people, to ensure workers get what they deserve, and to free those who are being forced to work or intimidated into handing over their hard-earned wages.
“But there is much more to do. Slavery and exploitation continues to thrive in every town and every city and our dedicated workforce will continue to build on what we’ve achieved.”
Minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability Victoria Atkins said: “This report is part of the GLAA's crucial work to understand the scale of exploitation of vulnerable workers so that law enforcement can identify and protect victims, and convict their perpetrators."
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