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Forced labour in the UK: the business angle

Mumtaz Lalani and Hilary Metcalf

25 April 2012

What employment and business practices could reduce forced labour?

Changed employment and business practices could promote decent work. A range of other tools could help curb forced labour including the regulation and enforcement of labour rights, trade unions and immigration law.

Forced labour has been reported in low-skill, low-wage jobs in the UK including care, construction, cleaning, entertainment, health, food and agriculture, domestic work and hospitality. However, the scope and extent of forced labour remains largely unknown. This study examines the business structures, processes and pressures that may drive or facilitate the use of forced labour in the UK. Making recommendations to the business community, government and trade unions and migrant community organisations to help reduce forced labour, the study found that:

  • A range of employment practices could reduce agency and subcontracted workers' vulnerability to forced labour
  • Businesses could identify instances of exploitation and forced labour using workforce engagement strategies and audits
  • There is an urgent need for government to take action and increase the current scope of its regulatory and enforcement action for temporary labour providers to prevent exploitation of the most vulnerable workers.
  • The risk of forced labour and wider labour exploitation should be given more weight when developing immigration regulations.

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