Modern Slavery

What is Modern Slavery?

Modern Slavery encompasses human trafficking, forced labour, domestic servitude and can have links to Sexual Exploitation. Traffickers and slave masters use whatever means they have at their disposal to force individuals into a life of abuse and inhumane treatment. Modern Slavery is a largely covert crime and victims tend to be controlled and hidden away.

Slavery is when someone is:

  • Forced to work through mental or physical threat
  • Owned or controlled by an ’employer’, usually through mental, physical or sexual abuse, or the threat of abuse
  • Dehumanised, treated as a commodity, or bought and sold as property or for the purposes of sexual exploitation
  • Physically constrained or has restrictions on his or her freedom of movement.

What is Human Trafficking?

Human trafficking involves an act of recruiting, transporting, transferring, harbouring or receiving a person through a use of force, coercion or other means, for the purpose of exploiting them.

It takes various forms and affects people of all ages, gender and races, with many victims targeted because of existing vulnerabilities including, learning disability, mental health problems and homelessness.

If you suspect this type of abuse is happening, you should report it to the Police or relevant Local Authority – they will make a referral through the National Referral Mechanism (NRM).

Poverty, limited opportunities, lack of education, unstable social and political conditions, economic imbalances and war are the key driving forces that contribute to the trafficking of victims into, through and across the UK. A common misconception is that victims are transported from another country into the UK, however people can still be trafficked from one Borough to another within the UK.

A specialist Modern Slavery/Human Trafficking Assessment Tool (Eight point checklist) has been developed, this can be located on our Local Policies, Strategies and Procedures page.

What is Forced Labour?

Forced labour is any work or service which people are forced to do against their will, under threat of punishment.

It is most often found in industries with a lot of workers and little regulation such as:

  • Agriculture and fishing
  • Domestic work
  • Construction, mining, quarrying and brick kilns
  • Manufacturing, processing and packaging
  • Prostitution and sexual exploitation
  • Market trading and illegal activities

What is Domestic Servitude?

Domestic Servitude is a specific type of forced labour and takes place in a private establishment. People may be promised employment and instead find themselves trapped in someone’s home with little or no money and coerced into staying for fear of punishment to themselves or their family.

What is Sex Trafficking?

Sex trafficking is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons who are under threat through force, coercion, fraud, deception or abuse of power and are sexually exploited for the financial gain of another.

Spotting the Signs of Modern Slavery

  • Physical appearance – victims may show signs of physical or psychological abuse, look malnourished or unkempt, or appear withdrawn, scared or frightened.
  • Isolation – victims may rarely be allowed to travel on their own, rarely interact or appear unfamiliar with their neighbourhood or where they work.
  • An unknown person may appear to be monitoring the movements of a worker or appears to be controlling them in some way. This may include the worker being collected and dropped off at work each day.
  • Poor living conditions – victims may be living in a dirty, cramped or overcrowded accommodation, and/or living and working at the same address.
  • Few or no personal effects – victims may have no identification documents (including access to their passport), have few personal possessions and always wear the same clothes day in, day out. What clothes they do wear may not be suitable for the work they are doing, and may not be appropriate for the season/weather.
  • The person may not have been provided with the appropriate personal protective equipment linked to the work they are doing, for example, safety gloves, goggles or boots.
  • Reluctance to seek help – victims may avoid eye contact, appear frightened or hesitant to talk to strangers and fear law enforcers for many reasons, such as not knowing who to trust or where to get help, fear of deportment, fear of violence to them or their family.


If you think you are a victim or work with or employ someone who may be a victim of modern slavery or forced labour you can call a helpline on 0800 0121 700 and talk through your concerns or visit The Modern Slavery Helpline 

If you think you’ve identified a trafficker or illegal gangmaster call the police on 101 or 999 in an emergency.

You can also download the Unseen App to report slavery:

An image displaying the Unseen App. Advice to report it to the Helpline

Find Support in Your Area

Links to Other Organisations

The Local Government Association have published a Council Guide on Modern Slavery the guide is split into targeted sections for officers working in different council services including children’s services, adult social care, housing, community and regulatory services and procurement. The guide is supported by a Maturity Matrix designed to assist councils in developing their work on this issue.