Staffordshire businesses are being warned about a rapid increase in modern slavery cases with experts saying the issue could pose a risk to their companies.
Helen Carter, Lead Consultant for Action Sustainability, shared her advice at the Staffordshire Business Festival on how the region’s businesses can recognise and report any suspicion or incidents of modern slavery.
She said: “Modern slavery is illegal and [is]the exploitation of people for personal or commercial gain. There is no definition, but fundamentally the forms are domestic labour and the sexual exploitation of people.
“There are 40.5 million victims of forced labour globally and 136,000 victims in the UK alone (2018).
“16% of these victims are subjected to criminal exploitation, the likes of theft and fraud.”
Criminal exploitation is organised crime. It is starting to become recognised that people who are being exploited are having goods imported under their own names.
County lines, including throughout Staffordshire, are at high risk of people being smuggled into the country for exploitation purposes.
Carter identified high risk areas to be aware of include construction, salons, carwashes, food outlets and agriculture. Also, domestic servitude, where a quarter of the victims are children.
The Modern Slavery Act has been in effect since 2015 providing companies, individuals and victims the right to sue for compensation if they have been treated illegally.
Carter also advised to refer to the GLAA (Gang Masters and Labour Abuse Authority) if any problems are suspected, and to ensure that suspicious behaviour is documented.
Carter pointed business leaders towards apps that can be downloaded for free such as ‘Unseen’ which will report anonymously any questionable activity that has been witnessed.
Companies would be held responsible for modern slavery if they do not ensure due diligence is in place.