How HR can help to abolish modern slavery

On 7 November 2019 we’re running a breakfast fringe event at the CIPD Annual Conference and Exhibition in Manchester on HR’s role in abolishing modern slavery.

As HR professionals we have a significant role to play in spotting the signs of labour exploitation and acting as inpenetrable barriers to traffickers seeking to place their victims in our organisations.

Victims are frequently employed in legitimate and often low-skilled jobs, with legal working conditions, by employers unrelated to the offenders and oblivious to the plight of their candidates. 

Please join us with Susan Banister from the Slave-Free Alliance for our interactive and conversational style event focusing on what we, as HR professionals, can do to minimise the risk of modern slavery and human trafficking in our organisations.

Important facts and figures

Globally, it is estimated that there are 24.9 million people in forced labour, sexual exploitation, or domestic servitude.

Large Organisations

The Modern Slavery Act requires all businesses with an annual turnover above £36 million to publish a yearly statement on Modern Slavery and Trafficking, identifying what steps they are taking to ensure that slavery and human trafficking are not taking place in their business (or supply chains).

Smaller Organisations

Whilst the obligation to publish a Statement only applies to larger organisations, it will have a cascading effect down the supply chain.

If SMEs sell directly to other small or medium sized businesses, or to consumers, the Act is unlikely to affect them directly, however if they deal with businesses turning over more than £36 million, they will be part of the supply chain. This means that they are likely to see contractual requirements obliging them to report on how their company operates in respect of the Act.

A recent survey found that 77% of organisations expected to find modern slavery in their operations or supply chain

So, while SMEs may not be required by law to submit an annual anti-slavery and trafficking report, being in a position to do so will boost their credibility and improve relations with any large company that requests one of them. In addition, if they are seeking to grow their company, considering these points in good time will stand them in good stead for when they cross the £36 million threshold.

Labour Exploitation

In 2017, among potential adult victims, the most common reported exploitation type was labour exploitation (44%) Labour exploitation typically involves unacceptably low pay, poor working conditions or excessive wage deductions coupled with some form of coercion. Most or all wages are taken by offenders often through control of the victims’ bank accounts.

Free Modern Slavery Forum in Manchester on 26 June from 17:30
2018 UK Annual Report on Modern Slavery

Recruiters are at higher risk of involvement in modern slavery than many other businesses, as they are likely to be the first port of call for traffickers, particularly in high risk sectors.

High-Risk Sectors Forced labour is alarmingly prevalent within the construction industry especially amongst migrant workers who are promised jobs in other countries, only to arrive and find that things aren’t as expected.

The consumer sector is highly vulnerable to modern slavery as a large proportion of manufacturing is outsourced, often internationally. Similarly, clothing firms are at risk when sourcing cotton, leather and any ready-made garments.

Companies in high-risk areas might want to start paying closer attention to exactly how their suppliers manage to provide such competitive rates. As individuals we should also be asking ourselves how some of the items we see for sale are so cheap.

The Modern Slavery Act 2015 requires us all to take responsibility – not just for what we do – but for what is done in our name


Susan Banister, Slave-Free Alliance
Ranked No. 24 of Corporate Modern Slavery Influencers Index 2018.

Susan is a modern slavery consultant with hands-on experience of rescuing victims of forced labour in the UK, understanding the devastating effect this crime has and how victims and businesses can find themselves exploited. Susan currently works with businesses, including global corporates, looking at modern slavery in their organisations and supply chains.

The Slave-Free Alliance has a membership scheme for businesses of all sizes who want to protect and enhance their reputations and improve the quality of the products and services they offer by ensuring the workers providing and producing them are not exploited, while also meeting their compliance requirements, improving their public image, and acting in an ethical and responsible way towards their workforce.

Spot the signs of modern Slavery

Read our previous posts on Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking and watch these videos from the Slave-Free Alliance part of Hope for Justice.

We hope to welcome you to our breakfast fringe event. Please remember that to enter the CIPD Annual Conference & Exhibition you will need to be in possession of a conference ticket or free exhibition pass which you can book here

Location Manchester, England E-mail Hours Our hours vary according to our programme.
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