Combating labour exploitation

In the UK labour exploitation takes many different forms and the number of victims has increased year on year. The Commissioner works with partners to ensure worker rights are protected and law enforcement agencies appropriately pursue exploiters.


Victims of labour exploitation have been identified in the UK in factories, car washes, farms, nail bars and residential houses. Labour exploitation is a form if modern slavery that manifests in different settings with a variety of indicators. The Commissioner therefore works with a number of partners in order to adequately combat labour exploitation and bring justice to victims.


The Commissioner is working with the Director of Labour Market Enforcement to ensure that labour market agencies give adequate resources to addressing modern slavery. The Commissioner has been working closely with the Director and his team as they have set up their office and developed their first strategy.

The Commissioner also arranged for a Romanian Labour Inspector to be seconded to the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA). Following the success of securing the secondment of Romanian police officers in police forces in England, the Commissioner transferred this model to labour inspection and arranged for a Romanian labour inspector secondment. The labour inspector was in post in 2017 for six months, working on over 15 cases and helped build the intelligence picture around the exploitation of Romanian nationals in the labour market in the UK.

The Commissioner is working to address the issue of exploitation in car washes. In light of the frequency of exploitation and slave-like conditions in car washes, the Commissioner has been working with the Petrol Retailers Association (PRA) to develop intelligence on the prevalence of unlicensed car washes across the UK.

The Commissioner has also raised the issue of exploitation within car washes with local authorities and police. The Commissioner has spoken publicly about this issue in the media in the hope of raising awareness by bringing attention to signs of modern slavery in car washes. The Daily Mirror newspaper based an investigation on the Commissioner’s proposed indicators and found evidence to suggest thousands of slaves are trapped working in car washes on forecourts and car parks in exploitative conditions.

The Commissioner has called for the Grocery Code Adjudicator’s remit to be extended further down the supply chain so that smaller companies are in a better position to contest unfair practices. The Commissioner submitted evidence to an inquiry into the remit of the Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA) calling for it to be extended. If the GCA’s remit extended to monitor relationships further down the supply chain so that they are covered by the Groceries Supply Code of Practice, suppliers will be in a better position to contest unfair practice, such as short notice orders, and less likely to accept a poor contract in fear of losing business. They would thus be less likely to outsource labour without appropriate safeguarding measures in place.

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