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Modern Slavery in the UK Cleaning Industry

Modern Slavery in the UK Cleaning Industry

When the subject of slavery is brought up, we can think of it as a problem of the past. The most well-known example is the transatlantic slave trade. This lasted over 300 years when people were forcibly taken from Africa to live in enslavement overseas. Famous media examples like the television show Roots, or the Oscar-winning film 12 Years a Slave, keep the history of slavery in the public eye. While these depictions may make it seem like slavery is an issue of a bygone era, the truth is that it has gone underground to evolve with the times. Modern slavery exists in the UK cleaning industry, and according to experts, the number of victims is growing.


How to Spot Modern Slavery in the UK

Victims of modern slavery are in several different sectors of business. The National Crime Agency explains that those in difficult situations such as fleeing war, in debt, or other extreme circumstances often fall prey. Furthermore, due to the secretive nature of modern slavery, there are no exact statistics, but they know that it is currently on the rise. Construction sites, nail salons, car washes, and even cleaning companies are places where slavers could be hiding their captives. The Salvation Army says that usually modern slavery is undetectable. Signs that the individual are malnourished, injured, unsure of their home address, others speaking for them, being dropped off to and from work, etc., can be a sign that modern slavery is taking place.


Modern Slavery in the Cleaning Industry

As a cleaning company, we are hyper-aware of the likelihood of modern slavery operating in the cleaning sector within the UK. The Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) say that the most reported area in the UK for slavery in this sector is London. The reported victims are mostly females from unknown Eastern European nationalities. Slavers are most exploiting those who are irregular migrants, the homeless, and those affected by alcohol or drug addiction. To keep them in servitude wages can be withheld or below minimum wage, and accommodation is sometimes provided to keep them trapped.


How Businesses Can Identify Labour Exploitation

GLAA outlines that the major ways businesses can help to identify labour exploitation is to:

  • Have more in-depth knowledge of their supply chains including contractors.
  • Raising awareness of modern slavery for employees, customers and organisations that work with you.
  • Having a whistleblowing policy in place.
  • A reporting process for employee complaints.
  • A recruitment process that is rigorous enough to potentially identify trafficked or exploited when seeking employment.
  • Due diligence checks for workers to lower risk the of exploitation.
  • Given workers access to translation services.
  • Undertake a modern slavery risk assessment for your business.
  • Create an internal escalation process to identify exploitation.
  • Ensure new staff complete forms alone, and not accompanied
  • Ensure that banking details for staff match the name of the staff member


Our Stance on Modern Slavery in the UK

Here at Spotless Cleaning, we are proud to have an anti-slavery and human trafficking policy for our business operations. Modern slavery is a crime and a violation of fundamental human rights. We have a zero-tolerance approach to modern slavery. In addition, we act ethically and with integrity in all our business dealings and relationships. By implementing and enforcing effective systems and controls we ensure slavery is not taking place in our business or any supply chains. We ensure there is transparency in our business and in our approach to tackling modern slavery throughout our supply chains. Consistent with our disclosure obligations under the Modern Slavery Act 2015. We expect the same high standards from all our contractors, suppliers, and other business partners, and as part of our contracting processes.


We hope that our blog has given you some starting insight into Modern Slavery in the business world. Especially in our sector, the cleaning industry. So, while it can be tempting to hire a cleaning supplier that offer extremely cheap rates, it is important to cast a critical eye over where they may be reaping the profits. We disclose our full slavery policy to all of our clients so that they can be confident they are working with a company that cares about its cleaning operatives. We have a blog on how we empower employees for the future.


If you are looking for further information or business advice on modern slavery, here are some useful links and resources below:

Modern Slavery Helpline