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Facilities Management and the risk of modern slavery

By 27th June 2017Blog
Modern Slavery

Blog by Ross Houghton, Group CSR Manager

What is modern slavery?

Modern Slavery is a terrible crime and human rights violation that has only started to be seriously discussed within businesses in recent years. The latest estimates from the Home Office predict that there are around 13,000 victims of modern slavery in the UK, however charities and others who are working to eradicate the crime, believe that the figure is actually three or four times more.

When you think of slavery you may have an image of people in a distant country chained up, being beaten and forced to work, however the issue of modern slavery is much closer to home. Although the chains of modern slaves may not be physical, they are still there, financially and emotionally and very much in the UK.

Modern Slavery Act 2015

Since the Modern Slavery Act 2015 came into force, the issue has been brought to the forefront of public consciousness. Simply complying to the terms of the 2015 Act can be viewed as a simple box ticking exercise, confirming that the company turns over £36m and that a modern slavery statement is published on the company website. This may be sufficient for some, but I believe that the nature of the facilities management (FM) industry calls for us to go much further.

Workforce training

Industries that employ high numbers of people from across the globe seem to be more susceptible to the risks of modern slavery, and so it is in these industries the most care needs to be taken to ensure that everyone is aware of the risks and what to look for.

Staff training is of upmost importance, the best way to help eradicate modern slavery is to ensure your people know what modern slavery is, where it can occur and the warning signs to look for. Then, just as importantly, they need to know who to call and if there is any action to take. For example, at Servest we are looking at multilingual communications including flip books and posters to roll out on to client sites and a partnership with a leading charity to set up a modern slavery helpline.

Supply Chain

It is also important to ensure each stage of your supply chain is slavery free, a good starting point is to compile an audit of which company is supplying you with which product, and to map out the county of origin for each product so you can identify areas of high risk. Servest has also made a commitment to its smaller suppliers, giving them access to resources and assisting in the development of plans to help eradicate this issue.

Calls for collaboration

In an industry as large as FM, a collaborative approach is the best way to eradicate the threat of slavery. Being able to share best practice and proven preventative steps is the only way the industry can move forward to make slavery a thing of the past. With this in mind, I recommend competition for business is placed to one side while we come together and focus on freeing as many people as possible from the shackles of modern slavery.

Signs of Modern Slavery

There are key signs which can indicate that someone is being kept as a slave:

• Multiple unrelated people living at one address
• Restricted in their movements, such as never being able to leave the house alone
• Act as if they were instructed by someone else
• Have limited or no social interaction with others and avoid eye contact
• A lack of belongings, including not being in possession of their passport or ID
• May appear malnourished or suffer from injuries and bruising
• Have little or no control over their finances and limited access to their earnings
• Show fear or anxiety

A more comprehensive list of signs can be found on The Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLA) website

Useful links

If you want to find out more, click on the below links:

Stronger Together – A multi-stakeholder initiative aiming to reduce modern slavery, which provides free resources and guidance.

Unseen – A multi-award winning charity working towards a world without slavery.

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