Modern Slavery

Here’s a question for you.

Would you be able to spot an example of modern slavery?

It sounds like it should be simple. But figures from police forces across the UK suggest that cases are not being reported because members of the public are simply unaware of what they should be looking for.

The latest figures – released just last month – show that reports of suspected modern slavery rose by more than a third in 2018, although campaigners described reported cases as only "the tip of the iceberg".

In total, some 6,993 potential modern slavery cases were reported to the government's National Referral Mechanism (NRM) according to the National Crime Agency – a far cry from the Government’s own estimates that there between 10,000 and 13,000 modern slaves in the UK.

So what signs should you be looking for if you suspect a case of modern slavery – somebody being forced to work against their will - either in your workplace or your community?

Things to look out for in possible victims include:

  • Is fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, or nervous/paranoid.

  • Exhibits unusually fearful or anxious behaviour.

  • Appear withdrawn.

  • Avoids eye contact.

  • Reluctant to seek help.

  • Lacks health care/dental care.

  • Appears malnourished.

  • Shows signs of physical and/or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement, or torture.


  • Not allowed to travel on their own.

  • Rarely interacts with others.

  • Unfamiliar with their neighbourhood or where they work.

  • Seem under the control of others.

Lack of control

  • Has few or no personal possessions.

  • Is not in control of his/her own money, no financial records, or bank account.

  • Is not in control of his/her own identification documents (ID or passport).

  • Is not allowed or able to speak for themselves (a third party may insist on being present and/or translating).

  • May wear the same clothes day in day out or clothes be inappropriate for the work being done.

Poor living conditions

  • Dirty cramped environment.

  • Over-crowded accommodation.

  • Living and working at the same place.

Unusual travel times

  • Maybe dropped off and collected for work on a regular basis either very early or late at night.

And there’s a very clear onus on you to report a case if you have suspicions.

That means not being worried about repercussions if it is in your workplace and not turning a blind eye because you are not absolutely certain of your suspicions or they involve someone you know.

If you think the suspected victim is under 18, or if there is an immediate danger to the suspected victim, call 999. Otherwise, you can contact the Modern Slavery Helpline on 0800 0121 700.

And if you need any further help or advice, just get in touch with us as soon as possible using the free consultation link on this page.

If you would like to discuss these issues, or other HR concerns then please

Contact Us