According to leading charity Unseen UK, up to 136,000 people in the UK may be in some form of modern slavery. It’s also very often a hidden issue: hard to detect, with examples ranging from victims becoming lost among larger workforces, to child labour being used in discrete parts of an organisation’s supply chain.
As the war in Ukraine continues to displace millions, there is a very real danger of a spike in human trafficking across Europe. Conflict increases vulnerability to trafficking, with refugees fleeing Ukraine at an enhanced risk of being trafficked. So, how can businesses play their part in combatting this crime, and what duties do they have, both morally and legally?
Understanding modern slavery
It’s important to first recognise that modern slavery is present all over the world. Many may not be aware it is an issue that exists here in the UK and Ireland, but as recent news stories show, it can and does impact men, women, and children of all ages, in every part of the world.
It’s also a crime which can be happening within an otherwise ordinary organisation. Whilst many cases of forced labour and people trafficking are uncovered within a supply chain, our colleagues in an office-based job can be subjected to forced or bonded labour through marital or familial coercion.
In terms of the Government’s response, the UK is the first country in the world to publish an annual modern slavery report. The UK leads in policy and regulation to “write modern slavery into history books” and make it an atrocity of our past.
Zellis, like many businesses across the UK, has its own statement on Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking, which includes a commitment to the global effort to tackle this issue. However, to fully realise that goal, individual businesses also need to play their part outside of their legal obligations.
How can organisations help to combat this crime?
Whilst education, awareness and training are all critical in the fight against this crime, there are practical steps businesses can take, too. Rich data analysis of payroll systems, for example, can be an effective tool to spot suspicious patterns and identify instances of modern slavery, allowing them to take action and avoid inadvertently bankrolling it.
Whilst payroll technology such as Zellis’ can help aid the hunt for patterns of modern slavery, it still requires a payrolling expert to connect the dots, which underlines the importance of ensuring our teams are properly trained to understand what they should be looking for.
A business can ensure all colleagues are aware of the potential for modern slavery abuses by creating a culture of awareness, which includes both training and education.
It’s also important that organisations create an anti-modern slavery statement to commit to playing their part in eradicating this crime and report on their performance outcomes as well as outlining their governance and transparency within supply chains.
Whilst such a statement is only legally required of larger organisations, it’s beneficial for all businesses no matter their size to actively think about what they can do to combat modern slavery. Many SMEs come forward voluntarily to register an anti-modern slavery statement with the Home Office, which shows their commitment to tackling the issue wherever it may appear.
Modern slavery is an appalling crime which can happen anywhere in the world. The UK is thankfully a leader in its approach towards tackling it, however, it needs synergy between government, laws, and regulations along with proactivity from individual businesses to make a difference.
From training and education through to a proactive strategy to spot suspicious patterns in payroll data, businesses have a moral as well as legal duty to step up to the plate and play their part to eradicate this issue.