Skip to main content

Forced labour in the United Kingdom

This round-up draws together research into the nature, scale and scope of forced labour in the UK, highlighting the most significant findings and recommendations.

Written by:
Klara Skrivankova
Date published:

Forced labour is a serious crime that currently affects thousands of people across the UK – and the number of cases is growing.

JRF has supported research into the nature, scale and scope of forced labour in the UK since 2010.

As the UK Government, Northern Ireland Assembly and Scottish Parliament consider new legislation to tackle the issue, this round-up draws together JRF's programme of research, highlighting the most significant findings and key recommendations.

Key points

  • The growth of forced labour has coincided with changes in the nature of the UK’s labour market. Increasing casualisation of jobs and longer supply chains within big companies have led to greater potential for workers to be exploited. The government’s light-touch approach to workforce regulation, weak enforcement of labour standards and immigration policies that exclude people from formal employment also make workers more vulnerable.
  • Forced labour can take many forms, and is not limited to immigrant workers or those who are working in the UK illegally. Interviews with those affected reveal different types of exploitation and the research explains why workers in some industries are particularly prone to it.
  • Improved regulation, enforcement and protection for those affected is needed, and this document recommends ways it can be provided. It stresses that forced labour will only be eradicated through greater joined-up working by the government, which must address the causes, not just the symptoms.
Music producer in a music studio sat on a chair.

This report is part of the work topic.

Find out more about our work in this area.

Discover more about work