Fortunately, most of us are insulated from the devastating effect that modern slavery has on the individuals subject to it, yet it’s estimated that modern slavery exists in every UK town and city; it’s far closer than you think. It’s the fastest growing form of organised crime and second only to the drug trade in terms of profitability. It’s not a problem that’s going away either, as the circumstances that cause people to be vulnerable are also growing, whether it be political and economic instability, war and the effects of climate change further afield, or mental health problems, poverty or homelessness within the UK, amongst others.
There are certain industries that are at higher risk than others, the food and hospitality industry being one of them. Given this context, Bidfood organised a training day for people in key roles across the business, in buying, non-inventory procurement and human resources, so that we could learn more about recognising and responding to modern slavery and exploitation, and also put measures in place to minimise the risk of slavery within our own operations, as well as within our global supply chains.
The training, delivered by Stronger Together, was hugely enlightening, pragmatic and action-focused. The three main learnings from the event were (1) just how easy it is for someone to inadvertently become a victim of exploitation, (2) how easy it is to put low cost measures in place that minimise the chances of exploitation within a business’s UK operations, and (3) the moment a business confidently asserts without any checks that there’s no slavery within their operations is the moment that they become blind to the risks and therefore fail to take necessary actions.
Top ten tips for minimising the risk of modern slavery in your organisation which we learnt from the Stronger Together training:
- Display multi-lingual posters (downloadable from http://www.stronger2gether.org/) prominently in staff areas such as WCs or locker rooms. These explain how a victim or witness to modern slavery or exploitation can alert the relevant authorities.
- Check the hourly rate charged by agencies. If an agency is paying minimum wage to a worker aged over 25, then it would cost them a minimum of £10.96 to legally cover their hourly rate, once costs of employment are included. This excludes an agency margin, so £10.96 is the absolute legal minimum that an agency can charge while remaining legally compliant.
- Run a data check on your own employees’ personal data. If there are multiple employees sharing the same address, or same phone number, this could be an indicator of exploitation.
- Managers and supervisors are often the first people to witness something which could act as a ‘red flag’ for exploitation, yet their immediate and correct response is crucial. The right action could lead to victim rescue and successful prosecution of a gangmaster, and the wrong action could just mean the victim is relocated elsewhere or worse, harmed. ‘Do the Right Thing’ is a great 7 minute clip on You Tube which shows how managers should respond if they see indicators of slavery https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eh2PKaFkyGM produced by GLAA (Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority) and could easily be incorporated in communication sessions.
- Stronger Together provide a free downloadable template worker questionnaire that can be issued confidentially, with the option to respond anonymously. Visit https://www.stronger2gether.org/resources/
- Make sure anyone supplying you with permanent or temporary labour is registered with the GLAA; you can check their licence at http://www.gla.gov.uk/ or by calling 0345 602 5020
- This is a hidden problem and it doesn’t occur to most of us that someone in close proximity could be a victim of exploitation. Simply getting it onto employees’ radar that this is an issue can be the first step in uncovering it. Display your Modern Slavery policy, make reference to it at inductions, be explicit in your commitment to prevent slavery, use internal newsletters to share actions taken and acknowledge that this is a real risk. You can even ask employees to donate used smartphones to help victims of trafficking – find more at https://www.unseenuk.org/support-us/donate-a-smartphone
- Register at http://www.stronger2gether.org/ for a full range of resources, checklists and templates
- Organise training for managers and individuals in key roles with Stronger Together
- Consider having a modern slavery representative at each of your sites to help with all of the above
Head of Sustainability and Change, Bidfood