The 18th October is a significant day in the calendar to highlight an issue that affects many thousands of people – it’s National Anti-Slavery day, implemented to raise awareness of the need to eradicate all forms of slavery, human trafficking and exploitation. So, I thought it would be an ideal time to focus the attention of our blog towards this very difficult subject and explore how identity scanning can support the fight against human slavery.
The Modern Slavery Act 2015 came into force in March 2015 and places a legal responsibility on those organisations carrying out business in the UK with an annual turnover of £36M or more to produce a slavery and human trafficking statement. The government expects organisations to build upon their statements year on year with a view that they will evolve over time. Part of this statement should take account of due diligence processes in relation to slavery and trafficking in its business and supply chains.
The anti-slavery hotline was able to identify 4000 potential victims of human trafficking and slavery in its first year and there have been some recent high profile prosecutions, including that of the Rooney family jailed for a total of 79 years.
However, modern slavery remains an incredibly difficult crime to deal with which remains largely hidden. An independent review carried out by barrister Caroline Haughey was commissioned by the Prime Minister in her previous role as Home Secretary. In this report the “Government estimates that there were between 10,000-13,000 potential victims of slavery in the UK in 2013”
When looking at due diligence processes, the Right to Work legislation instantly comes to mind as a closely-related topic. Any employment should begin with an identity check. And at that point, many of our clients are identifying false identity documents as part of these right to work requirements. We know that the manufacture and supply of these forged and stolen documents is a highly-organised operation. Take into consideration the largest migrant crisis since the second world war and the identification and disruption of illegal workers should be a red flag and a potential slavery identifier. Indeed, some larger companies who have published their anti-slavery statements specifically highlight right to work checks as part of their due diligence measures to prevent slavery and human trafficking.
A report by the Royal United Services Institute (Whitehall report 1-17 “Disrupting Human Trafficking”) specifically highlights high risk areas “The most commonly reported types of labour exploitation in the UK in 2014 were in factories and car washes; other industries include agriculture, construction, food preparation and processing, restaurants and nail bars. Exploitation was commonly linked to work found through recruitment agencies”. In my other blogs, I have highlighted industry sectors where I have seen an increase in false documents, including construction and recruitment, in particular, which aligns with finding in the Whitehall report.
You may not initially think of anti-slavery when you’re thinking about making right to work checks, and your business may fall under the £36m turnover threshold. But, I believe that it should be in the back of everyone’s minds that slavery can occur in any industry, regardless of the size of company. Having a focus on tackling modern slavery including robust identity checking could not only protect vulnerable workers but it will prevent human rights violations whilst protecting and enhancing a company’s reputation and brand.
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