Modern Slavery and the Coronavirus:

What does this mean for your business?

Virtually every business and every organisation in the UK and across the world has faced major disruption over the last week following restrictions put in place by governments due to COVID-19.

Unfortunately, as always during previous times of crisis and uncertainty, it is the vulnerable who are hit first. The traffickers and organised criminals responsible for the brutal realities of modern slavery are entrepreneurial and they prey on vulnerability, so we know they will be seeking ways to profit from this outbreak and the associated economic instability.

Your business could therefore be at a greater risk of modern slavery. Here are some issues to be aware of and some ways you can provide extra protection for your business and your supply chains at this critical time:

1. High-demand sectors are seeing massive recruitment drives; reduced checks could increase the risk of modern slavery

Many sectors that are in high demand due to COVID-19 will be struggling to deal with the workload and pressure they are facing. Serious organised crime groups will take advantage of the disruption and urgency these businesses are feeling, knowing that agencies and recruiters might potentially use shortcuts to speed up the recruitment process. These groups will potentially push forward victims of forced labour into these opportunities, as they know there will be reduced checks.

We expect to see this occurring in the following sectors: supermarkets, food production, transport & logistics, warehousing, call centres, waste & facilities management, and care & medical device/equipment manufacturers.

Companies that might fall under this risk area will need to ensure that due diligence processes are still followed to ensure that potentials signs of modern slavery are spotted and acted upon.

Top Tips

      • Ensure recruiters understand signs and indicators associated with modern slavery.
      • Where labour is outsourced, ensure that labour providers have rigor in their recruitment procedures to prevent the likelihood of infiltration by traffickers.
      • Provide modern slavery awareness training during the induction of new workers.

 

Slave-Free Alliance’s expert team of Technical Service Managers are available for a FREE 30-minute consultancy call if you do have any concerns in this area, so please do not hesitate to get in touch to arrange your slot via: info@slavefreealliance.org

2. Traffickers’ threats could lead to the spread of COVID-19

Traffickers will not want to see any reduction in their illicit earnings due to their victims being made redundant, having symptoms of COVID-19 or becoming unwell. Victims will be told, indeed threatened, by their traffickers not to disclose symptoms or to self-isolate and will be forced to continue presenting themselves at work to generate income. If an employee still persists in working regardless of how they feel, or they are resistant to self-isolate, it could be because of hidden threats like these and the worker could actually be a victim of exploitation.

The Coronavirus Act empowers you as the business to send people “home”. If such a discussion with an employee induces stress and anxiety in them, they are unable to get home due to not having their own transport, then these could be signs that they are a victim of slavery.

Top Tips

      • Ensure Covid-19 guidance is available and translated to reflect the languages of the workforce.
      • Communicate and promote reporting pathways to workers of modern slavery and health concerns.
      • Include Covid-19 guidance on briefing and team talks.

 

If you have any concerns about your employees at this time, or would like more advice on how to ask the right questions in this type of circumstance, get in touch with the Slave-Free Alliance team. We are here to help and advise at this critical time: info@slavefreealliance.org

3. Without labour enforcement and auditing companies doing their usual checks, modern slavery victims could end up in your supply chains

The forthcoming Coronavirus Act outlines that businesses need to ask employees to produce documentation and proof of previous movements. If one of your employees shows a slow or resistant response, this may be due to them being forced or not having this documentation available.

With most labour enforcement agencies and auditing companies working from home, companies are not being checked or held accountable to the usual labour standards. Exceptional circumstances mean these checks might not happen at all, and therefore victims could end up in your supply chains.

Top Tips

      • Review the supply chain. Identify suppliers who are experiencing a spike in recruitment of temporary labour, and exercise due diligence to confirm that modern slavery is being mitigated.
      • Undertake duplicate checks of new employees in relation to shared bank details, addresses and next of kin. Verify that duplication is not associated with modern slavery or exploitative circumstances.
      • Concentrate audit/compliance on suppliers or parts of the business where an increase in resourcing has been necessary.

 

Slave-Free Alliance specialists are continuing with their frontline work and we are risk assessing each case individually. If you do have concerns about your business and would like to speak to one of the team about having a potential site assessment or gap analysis at this time, we would be happy to speak to you about how we could conduct this appropriately: info@slavefreealliance.org

“We are in unprecedented times currently with COVID-19. Businesses are having to adapt daily to the pressures and changes surrounding this global pandemic. Employees are looking for new ways of working and job opportunities in this ever-changing world. The increase of modern slavery is sadly very real and your business could be at risk. We are here to help. If you have any issues or concerns, please do not hesitate to get in touch, to be connected with one of our specialists. It’s a strange time for us all – let’s get through this together.”
Marc Stanton
Director of Slave-Free Alliance
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