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 where mistreatment was identified 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 – whereby victims are forced into labour – a 35% increase compared with 2016.
Albanian, British and Vietnamese were the top reported nationalities in both years.
Victims tend to live in poor conditions without basic facilities like electricity, heating and water, with non-payment of minimum wages, violence and threats all common exploitative practices.
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.
Wages in the catering sector can reportedly be as low as £10 per shift, with some employees working up to 15 hours a day.
In some cases in the construction industry, victims of serious injuries have been offered compensation as an incentive to prevent them reporting to the 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 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: “[We] 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.”
GLAA’s report here: tinyurl.com/y8m7lq2d
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