Forced labour: contemporary slavery in the UK

Contemporary slavery

How can we reduce forced labour in the UK, and support its victims?


Director, Policy and Research
01904 615938
Research Administrator
01904 615946

Influencing the development of policy and practice to reduce forced labour in the UK.

Our overall goal is to contribute to a reduction in forced labour in the UK by:

  • highlighting the issue with new, strong evidence on the extent of forced labour and interventions that might help eradicate it; and
  • identifying practical solutions and sharing best practice in supporting victims of forced labour.

Key issues

Indicators of forced labour include*:

  • threats or actual physical harm to the worker;
  • restriction of movement and confinement, to the workplace or to a limited area;
  • debt bondage, where the worker works to pay off debt or a loan, and is not paid for his or her services;
  • the employer may provide food and accommodation at such inflated prices that the worker cannot escape the debt
  • withholding of wages or excessive wage reductions that violate previously made agreements;
  • retention of passports and identify documents, so that the worker cannot leave, or prove his/her identify and status;
  • threat of denunciation to the authorities, where the worker has an irregular immigration status.

* Reference: ILO (International Labour Organization) (2004) 'Human trafficking and forced labour exploitation: guidelines for legislators and law enforcement', in B. Anderson and B. Rogaly (2005) Forced labour and migration to the UK, London: TUC/COMPAS, p 16.

Forced labour occurs in a number of sectors and often involves work which is difficult, dirty and dangerous. Migrant workers in particular are vulnerable to forced labour situations.

Although there is evidence of forced labour occurring in the UK – drawn from practical experience, journalistic accounts and research studies – there is a real need for more extensive and robust evidence.

Forthcoming work

The forced labour programme aims to improve the availability of evidence, through research projects exploring the scope and experience of forced labour in the UK.

In autumn 2013 we will publish a report on business modelling and forced labour.

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