March 2020

This scoping research explores ‘worker-driven social responsibility’ (WSR) as a tool for ensuring decent work in supply chains. WSR is an exciting new model for tackling labour abuse in supply chains that has demonstrably improved working conditions in a range of contexts. It is similar to collective bargaining in that it involves a group of workers jointly negotiating their rights, with the difference that it targets companies at the top of supply chains instead of direct employers. The report discusses why new models for addressing labour abuse in supply chains are needed and whether the WSR model could be suitable to the UK, especially to sectors where outsourcing is common.

February 2020

FLEX provided evidence to this submission, which was coordinated by the Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group (ATMG). It provides a response to the third evaluation round of the questionnaire for the evaluation of the implementation of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings in the United Kingdom, which focuses on access to justice and effective remedies for survivors of trafficking in human beings.

January 2020

FLEX has provided this submission to influence the selection of issues against which the UK will be reviewed under the ICCPR, which contains provisions against slavery and related practices.

January 2020

FLEX has responded to the Director of Labour Market Enforcement's Call for Evidence: 2020/21 Strategy, providing detail on the nature and prevalence of labour abuses in construction and cleaning; highlighting concerns regarding the Seasonal Workers Pilot; and describing key themes for his consideration, including the linkage between immigration enforcement and labour inspection and under-resourcing of labour inspection.

January 2020

FLEX is the co-chair of the Modern Slavery Strategy Implementation Group: Task and Finish Sub-Group on Prevention ('MSSIG Prevent'). This is a stakeholder body which advises government on prevention policy and activity. These minutes represent a record of discussions at the MSSIG Prevent's meeting on 27th January 2020 regarding the theme of immigration policy and its intersection with prevention work and aims.

November 2019

FLEX is the co-chair of the Modern Slavery Strategy Implementation Group: Task and Finish Sub-Group on Prevention ('MSSIG Prevent'). This is a stakeholder body which advises government on prevention policy and activity. In its September member meeting, the MSSIG Prevent discussed the issue of exploitation of migrant domestic workers who enter the UK on the 'Overseas Domestic Workers' visa. Several members raised concerns about the perceived contradiction between this visa and the government's stated aims regarding the eradication of modern slavery. This statement lays out those concerns and it signed by several civil society members of this expert government stakeholder group.

November 2019

For 2019's General Election, FLEX lays out nine key policies needed to tackle labour exploitation in this handy simple sheet.

October 2019

A joint response from Focus on Labour Exploitation and Latin American Women's Rights Service to the Government Equalities Office Consultation on Sexual Harassment in the Workplace. The response highlights the importance of taking into account outsourced, agency and self-employed workers when introducing a preventative duty for employers on sexual harassment. It also emphasises the need for sexual harassment in the workplace to be addressed not as an isolated issue but in the broader context of labour abuse and exploitation of women at work.

October 2019

FLEX submitted to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy regarding the proposed establishment of a single enforcement body. 

October 2019 - Labour Exploitation Advisory Group

This submission focuses on LEAG’s concerns around the new Single Enforcement Body’s proposal to work more closely with other enforcement bodies, more specifically immigration enforcement. It describes how fear of immigration consequences currently acts as a major barrier to reporting and seeking help when migrant workers face labour abuses and exploitation. This collaboration is seen to negatively affect labour inspectorate’s ability to support workers and identify employers in breach of employment law in the UK. It recommends that UK labour enforcement activities abide by article 3(2) of the International Labour Organisation Convention 81 and recommendation by the former Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, and protect the rights and interests of all workers, irrespective of immigration status.

October 2019

FLEX is the co-chair of the Modern Slavery Strategy Implementation Group: Task and Finish Sub-Group on Prevention ('MSSIG Prevent'). This is a stakeholder body which advises government on prevention policy and activity. These minutes represent a record of discussions at the MSSIG Prevent's meeting on 11th September 2019. Also published here is the briefing prepared for the meeting by Kalayaan. 

July 2019

FLEX is the co-chair of the Modern Slavery Strategy Implementation Group: Task and Finish Sub-Group on Prevention ('MSSIG Prevent'). This is a stakeholder body which advises government on prevention policy and activity. These minutes represent a record of discussions at the MSSIG Prevent's meeting on 13th June 2019.

July 2019

This report draws on the frontline experiences of Labour Exploitation Advisory Group members, including Ashiana Sheffield, Latin American Women's Rights Service and Bail for Immigration Detainees, to explore why and how victims of trafficking are being detained under immigration powers in the UK. It makes strong recommendations to government and calls for an overhaul to the system enabling this to take place.

June 2019

This briefing presents the findings of a project, led by University of Liverpool in partnership with FLEX and funded by the British Academy with the Department for International Development. The project assessed how transparency in supply chains for chocolate and clothes (please see separate garment briefing) can help to protect human rights, including children’s rights, and the wellbeing of workers in low and middle-income countries. This briefing examines the findings from research into the cocoa sector in Ghana and the Dominican Republic to provide key policy recommendations for businesses and governments. 

June 2019

This briefing presents the findings of a project, led by University of Liverpool in partnership with FLEX and funded by the British Academy with the Department for International Development. The project assessed how transparency in supply chains for chocolate (please see separate cocoa briefing) and clothes can help to protect human rights and the wellbeing of workers in low and middle-income countries. This briefing examines the findings from research into the garment sector in Bangladesh and Myanmar to provide key policy recommendations for businesses and governments on working conditions.

May 2019

The 2018 Immigration White Paper described the Government's proposals for post-Brexit labour migration, including three temporary migration programmes. This report looks in-depth at such programmes and how they can exacerbate or relate to risks of labour abuse and exploitation, including human trafficking. Drawing on examples from around the world and UK history, it highlights the risks in such schemes and describes in detail the three proposed programmes. It provides strong recommendations to Government on how to design, implement and monitor such programmes to prevent abuse and exploitation. 

May 2019

This briefing is complementary to FLEX's report, The Risks of Exploitation in Temporary Migration Programmes: A FLEX response to the 2018 Immigration White Paper, also published in May 2019. It describes the three temporary migration programmes proposed by the Government in itds 2018 Immigration White Paper and the risks these pose of labour abuse and exploitation. It provides key recommendations for Government to ensure such schemes do not create or facilitate human trafficking for labour exploitation.

March 2019

Government plans for two temporary migration programmes to bring workers to the UK after Brexit present significant risks of labour abuse and exploitation, including human trafficking.

This briefing describes the two proposed programmes, explains the risks presented by them and provides clear recommendations for government to protect workers and prevent a two-tiered labour market operating after Brexit in which temporary migrant workers are ill-treated.

March 2019

Corporate human rights reporting is a commonly expected practice and is increasingly becoming a legal requirement for businesses. But is it working? This report, a joint publication from FLEX and the International Corporate Accountability Roundtable, explores this crucial question. Providing an in-depth review of current modern slavery legislation around the world, it highlights commons gaps in existing laws and encourages a more risk and outcomes oriented approach to reporting in future. It concludes with clear recommendations for governments and companies to enhance modern slavery reporting in the future.

February 2019 - Labour Exploitation Advisory Group (LEAG)

People who have experienced trafficking or modern slavery are considered ‘vulnerable’ under the Home Office’s ‘Adults at Risk’ policy. This submission describes the experiences of LEAG in supporting and advocating for victims of trafficking in detention and provides illustrative case studies of the experiences of members’ clients with the Home Office’s ‘Adults at Risk’ policy.

September 2018

The UK Government recently announced a new two-year pilot scheme to bring temporary migrant workers from outside the EU to work in the UK agricultural sector. How the pilot scheme is structured will have significant implications for the level of risk faced by migrant workers, ranging from labour abuses like unpaid overtime to the severe exploitation found in cases of forced labour and human trafficking.

This policy briefing highlights the risks of the Government’s proposed new temporary migration programme for the agricultural and horticultural sectors and future schemes like it, and outlines steps required to prevent labour abuse and exploitation after Brexit. 

September 2018

The UK Modern Slavery Act 2015 currently does not require public agencies to submit a slavery and human trafficking statement and the UK Government does not legally exclude companies with a history of serious labour rights abuses from public tenders. This briefing provides recommendations to the UK Government on implementing a public procument legislation that show leadership on modern slavery prevention and look to international good practice examples when determining the steps to ensure that workers in public supply chains are not exploited.

September 2018

The UK Modern Slavery Act 2015 introduced the Transparency in Supply Chains (TISC) provision that requires companies with an annual turnover of £36 million or more to produce an annual Modern Slavery Statement. Based on FLEX's consultation with workers, academics, company representatives and experts in Bangladesh and UK, this briefing outlines the core components of effective transparency in supply chains legislation.

September 2018 - FLEX & Labour Exploitation Advisory Group (LEAG)

This submission describes the experiences of FLEX and LEAG with the Home Office’s activities to tackle illegal working and provides illustrative case studies from FLEX and LEAG’s work with potential and actual victims of human trafficking for labour exploitation.

August 2018 - Advisory Committee of the Modern Slavery Registry

In this submission to the Australian Senate's Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee, the Advisory Committee of the Modern Slavery Registry recommends that the Modern Slavery Bill 2018 be strengthened with a public list of reporting entities, procurement incentives, a requirement for companies to describe how they identify risks, and phased-in penalties for non-compliance. FLEX has joined other members of the Advisory Committee (Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, Humanity United, Freedom Fund, Anti-Slavery International, Trades Union Congress, Ethical Trading Initiative, Unicef UK, Freedom United, CORE Coalition and Principles of Responsible Investment (PRI)) in calling for these reforms based on our learning from the UK Modern Slavery Act 2015 and its implementation.

July 2018

This action plan sets out steps for governments to ensure that the interests of workers are central to efforts to tackle human trafficking and forced labour in global supply chains. The blueprint is the result of in-depth engagement with trade unions, businesses, academics and civil society. 

July 2018

This report examines transparency in supply chains legislation and draws on case studies from the UK and Bangladesh. It asks how governments can make transparency in supply chains legislation effective, but also how we can move beyond transparency towards worker-centred corporate accountability to prevent human trafficking for labour exploitation. 

May 2018

This FLEX guide to researching labour exploitation sets out our approach to research with hard-to-reach migrant workers. In this guide, FLEX draws on insights from academic literature and experts in methodological approaches to engaging hard-to- reach groups in research. We discuss the advantages and challenges of the migrant community model and introduce practical tools developed for migrant community research. The guide is based on a FLEX pilot and we hope it can be a support to migrant and community organisations, trade unions and others engaging in similar projects. 

May 2018

In this submission FLEX draws upon its research and expertise on labour abuse and exploitation of agency workers. FLEX has conducted research on labour exploitation in high-risk sectors of the UK labour market including construction, bakeries and fisheries and has produced a guide to tackling exploitation in the UK labour market.

May 2018

In this submission FLEX draws upon its research and expertise on labour abuse and exploitation of agency workers. FLEX has conducted research on labour exploitation in high-risk sectors of the UK labour market including construction, bakeries and fisheries and has produced a guide to tackling exploitation in the UK labour market.

This submission is in response to Section A, Questions 2-5, of the inquiry.

May 2018 - FLEX & Labour Exploitation Advisory Group (LEAG)

This submission focuses on gendered aspects of labour abuse and exploitation by drawing on discussions and case studies from the Labour Exploitation Advisory Group (LEAG) and the LEAG Working Group on Women Workers on four highly feminised sectors: care, cleaning, hospitality and domestic work.

April 2018

This report draws on interviews and surveys with migrant construction workers in London to examine the causes of labour abuses that can lead to exploitation in the construction sector. 

April 2018

This submission sets the backdrop to modern slavery in the UK and the official response, it outlines the UK’s international commitments to tackle modern slavery in general and labour exploitation in particular. It examines the threat to the aims of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 and the UK’s commitment to tackle modern slavery posed by deregulation, including: cuts to resources for UK labour inspectorates; curtailment of labour inspectors’ powers to proactively identify cases of labour abuse and exploitation; and reductions to regulations protecting workers from threats to their labour rights such as accident recording and employment tribunals’ wider recommendation making powers.

March 2018

This guide presents a five-point plan to combat exploitation of women workers in feminised labour sectors. It outlines specific workplace risks and types of gender-related abuse that can put women workers at risk of exploitation, and sets out practical steps labour market enforcement agencies can take to build amore targeted, gender-aware responses to abuse and exploitation of women in the workplace.

February 2018

This briefing outlines the potential detrimental impact of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill 2017-19 on the UK’s efforts to prevent human trafficking and modern slavery, and the changes to the Bill that could prevent this.

A significant proportion of workers’ rights in the UK come from the EU. The Withdrawal Bill leaves these rights vulnerable to being changed or weakened post-Brexit, without proper parliamentary scrutiny. The watering down of employment rights increases workers’ vulnerability to labour exploitation, including forced labour, slavery or servitude. FLEX supports Amendment 21 to the Bill, which would ensure that changes to employment standards that come from the EU can only be made if they do not reduce or weaken these rights and protections.

February 2018

In this submission, FLEX provides evidence for two of the five questions put forward by the Public Accounts Committee as part of this inquiry. These are: (i) what is the quality and suitability of government support provided to identified victims of modern slavery? (ii) How successful has the 2014 Modern Slavery Strategy been so far in tackling modern slavery? (iii) How effective is the governance system that government has put in place for tackling modern slavery?

January 2018

In this submission, drawing from a 2017 inspection report from the UK Independent Chief Inspector of Borders, FLEX notes the difficulties associated with identifying potential victims of trafficking at border crossings. Recognising these challenges, FLEX emphasises the crucial importance of labour inspections in reducing vulnerability to exploitation and identifying potential victims of trafficking, particularly in sectors where the use of recruitment agencies/labour providers is high. FLEX therefore highlights the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority’s (GLAA’s) licensing and inspection scheme for labour providers as an example of good practice for Member States.

November 2017

FLEX submission to the Migration Advisory Committee’s Commission to advise on the economic and social impacts of the UK’s exit from the European Union. This submission outlines the increased risks of exploitation facing EEA workers post-Brexit, and addresses the likely introduction of a temporary migration scheme to address labour shortages post-Brexit and the risks of exploitation that may arise in such schemes.

October 2017 - Caroline Robinson

FLEX Statement to the Fifth Thematic Consultation on the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration: “Smuggling of migrants, trafficking in persons and contemporary forms of slavery, including appropriate identification, protection and assistance to migrants and trafficking victims”. 

October 2017

This briefing outlines key drivers of labour exploitation in the construction sector in London and sets out interventions to tackle the problem. 

October 2017

This report sets out FLEX's action plan for a UK response to exploitation in the labour market. It starts by identifying the picture of risk to individuals of exploitation in the UK labour market, then presents solutions to such exploitation through: labour inspection and enforcement; gateways to advice and remedy; and corporate accountability. In so doing the report provides a comprehensive guide to an effective response to human trafficking for labour exploitation in the UK. 

October 2017

In this submission, FLEX urges the Australian government to take this opportunity to learn from and build upon the experience of the UK Modern Slavery Act reporting requirements, and to view with clarity the specific role and the limitations of that legislation. 

October 2017

FLEX intervention to the second informal interactive multi-­stakeholder hearing on the preparatory process for the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration and the Intergovernmental Conference on International Migration.

August 2017

FLEX response to the Mayor of London's consultation on his Good Work Standard.

August 2017 - FLEX & the Labour Exploitation Advisory Group

This paper explores the impact of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union (Brexit) on workers’ vulnerability to labour exploitation. Combining desk-based research and interviews with members of the Labour Exploitation Advisory Group (LEAG), this paper sets out how migrant worker vulnerability to exploitation has been affected by the UK referendum vote to leave the European Union. It looks both at the immediate impact of that decision and considers the key risk areas for the future as the UK transitions out of the EU.

June 2017

This updated Guide recognises that access to legal remedies for victims of human trafficking is about more than compensation, and that access to justice relies on access to legal assistance and support. The aim of the Guide is to provide practical information that can assist service providers in informing victims about their legal options and directing them towards legal advice.

May 2017

Labour abuses over time can take a huge toll and leave workers vulnerable to situations of severe exploitation. This short animation builds awareness of the reasons why people fall into exploitation and shows the solutions FLEX seeks to end exploitation.

April 2017

FLEX responses to the United National Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery consultation questionnaire on access to justice and remedy.

April 2017 - FLEX, CORE Coalition, Amnesty International, Anti-Slavery International & Traidcraft

A joint General Election briefing on modern slavery, corporate governance, corporate crime and trade from CORE, FLEX, Amnesty International UK, Anti-Slavery International and Traidcraft.

September 2016

This policy paper presents research findings and policy recommendations for EU policy makers on three key issues: the need for sustainable support and access to accommodation for victims of trafficking for labour exploitation; the increasing conflation of labour inspection and immigration control and the need for more proactive and victim-centred identification efforts; and the lack of access to legal remedies for victims of trafficking for labour exploitation. The paper was developed as part of the Pro-active Identification and Support of Victims of Trafficking for Labour Exploitation in the EU (Pro-Act) Project.

September 2016

This policy paper addresses the issue of access to compensation for victims of trafficking for labour exploitation in the UK. It identifies 4 key barriers to victims’ access to compensation in the UK, and proposes a set of recommendations to ensure all victims of human trafficking can obtain redress for the abuses committed against them. 

September 2016

FLEX research into identification and support of victims of human trafficking in the UK has revealed the critical need for better information and support for potential victims of trafficking who enter the UK National Referral Mechanism – the UK’s official framework for identifying and supporting victims of trafficking. This short film, Support Without Recovery: the UK anti-trafficking response, gives an insight into the fear and uncertainty faced by those who have to wait for months to be recognized as victims of trafficking, with little or no support to help them move on with their lives

August 2016 - Labour Exploitation Advisory Group

In this position paper the Labour Exploitation Advisory Group explores the link between labour abuses and exploitation, outlining the factors which in their experience cause or allow labour abuses to develop into more extreme exploitation. The paper makes recommendations for measures to address abuses across the spectrum and thereby prevent the development of exploitation. 

August 2016

Labour Exploitation Advisory Group (LEAG) Guidance: understanding victim perspectives in identifying and reporting cases of labour exploitation. This guidance provides a summary of some of the key issues statutory agencies and frontline professionals should be aware of when encountering and supporting victims of labour exploitation.

July 2016 - Ainhoa Barrenechea

Access to compensation can play an important role in the recovery of survivors of human trafficking. Compensation awards can help victims move on with their lives and reduce their risk of further exploitation. This paper considers the ability of victims of human trafficking and other forms of modern slavery to access compensation, one year on from the enactment of the Modern Slavery Act. The findings of this research indicate that little has changed for victims seeking justice who are still facing significant legal and practical barriers to obtaining compensation for the abuses committed against them.

July 2016 - FLEX

This report reviews the UK pilot implementation of the Pro-Act Project strategies for pro-active identification and support for victims of trafficking for labour exploitation, and sets out reflections and recommendations for change based on the outcomes of the project's pilot phase. 

May 2016

This briefing was provided to inform the work of the London Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) on protecting people who are vulnerable to crime. It sets out some of the main factors influencing vulnerability to human trafficking and labour exploitation. FLEX hopes this will influency strategy on tackling human trafficking in London as the Mayor develops plans and policy for 2016-2020. 

March 2016 - CORE Coalition and partners

Focus on Labour Exploitation (FLEX) has joined leading charities to publish guidance on best practice in addressing modern slavery in corporate activities. The guidance sets out steps companies could take towards eradicating labour exploitation from their supply chains. It has been produced by leading NGOs in this sector including the CORE Coalition, FLEX, CAFOD and Amnesty International.

Since the inclusion of company reporting requirements in the UK Modern Slavery Act last year, this has become a hot topic for businesses and NGOs alike. This guidance provides a roadmap for businesses that truly want to take meaningful action in this area.

February 2016 - FLEX, FairWork and ADPARE

The Pro-Act Project maps how identification and support systems are working in the three partner countries, and draws on this mapping to develop and pilot effective victim-centred strategies for improvement across the EU. This report analyses findings on identification and support from the UK, the Netherlands and Romania and sets out recommendations for change. These recommendations provide the basis for a set of EU- wide strategies to improve the pro-active identification and support of persons trafficked for labour exploitation. 

January 2016 - Caroline Robinson

This briefing covers three key areas relating to Part One of the Immigration Bill
1.    The Director of Labour Market Enforcement
2.    The Offence of Illegal Working
3.    New Government amendments in response to the Consultation - ‘Tackling Exploitation in the Labour Market’ 

FLEX believes that labour inspection and enforcement is key to preventing modern slavery. Whilst FLEX supports the establishment of a Director of Labour Market Enforcement to coordinate labour inspection efforts, the central role of the UK labour inspectorates in preventing exploitation risks being undermined by a politically motivated Director who lacks a clear mandate. The victims of modern slavery with whom FLEX works express deep fear and distrust of authorities as well as a real concern for immigration repercussions should they come forward. The Clause 8 Offence of Illegal Working will exacerbate such fears and play in to the hands of traffickers who seek to exploit and coerce vulnerable individuals in to exploitation. Finally the Gangmasters’ Licensing Authority is recognised as a best practice model worldwide. The Government is now proposing reducing its licensing role by introducing ‘flexibility’ in licensing despite just 19% of respondents to a recent Government consultation on labour exploitation supporting such moves. Further amendments requiring the GLA to carry out its functions in accordance with the Director’s strategy mean that its role as a Non-Departmental Public Body and the expertise it has developed as an independent authority is severely threatened. 

January 2016 - Caroline Robinson

This Memorandum was submitted to the UK Parliament Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee setting out FLEX's concerns with respect to amendments tabled by the Government to the Immigration Bill at Committee Stage in the House of Lords which significantly amend existing powers of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA). FLEX is concerned that Government Amendment 77 paragraph 21 will be used to make changes to GLA licence standards without adequate transparency and scrutiny. Our fear is that unless Parliament is engaged in the shaping of licence standards then changes could be made without a clear evidential basis and without proper and full consultation of all stakeholders with expertise in labour sector licensing requirements.


December 2015

In this document FLEX responds the the Government's consultation on tackling exploitation in the labour market.  This consultation proposes an expanded role for key UK labour inspection agencies, proposing extra powers of criminal investigation for the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) and for labour inspection priorities to alter according to an annual strategy proposed by a new Director of Labour Market Enforcement.  The consultation also proposes a shift away from licensing towards voluntary schemes. In this response, FLEX warns that threats to the GLA licensing and license monitoring functions should be resisted and that increasing criminal powers of the GLA could distract from these core licensing and monitoring functions.  FLEX notes that the UK has one of the weakest labour inspectorates in Europe and is proposing weakening it further through by asking it to do more with less resources. 

December 2015

As a coalition of business representatives, trade unions and NGOs, we welcome the government’s commitment to tackling labour market exploitation.In advance of discussions by the House of Lords on the Committee Stage of the Immigration Bill on 18 January, we set out a number of points on Part 1: Labour Market Enforcement:

1. Reforms of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) licensing regime should not weaken GLA licensing standards or reduce application and compliance inspections that protect vulnerable workers;

2. An expanded role for the GLA should be matched by additional resources;

3. The Director of Labour Market Enforcement set out in the Bill must be required to engage with key stakeholders. 

This briefing is a joint publication from: The Association of Labour Providers; the British Retail Consortium; The Ethical Trading Initiative; Focus on Labour Exploitation; The Institute for Human Rights and Business; and The Trade Union Congress. 

November 2015 - Caroline Robinson

This latest FLEX Parliamentary Briefing on the Immigration Bill looks at Part One of the Bill and seeks improvements to ensure that the proposed Director of Labour Market Enforcement acts in the interests of those most vulnerable to labour exploitation. Further FLEX advocates the removal of the 'offence of illegal working' from the Immigration Bill on the grounds that it will be used by unscrupulous employers to control vulnerable migrant workers but also that it will prevent the identification of trafficking as victims will be unwilling to come forward for fear of immigration repercussions. This briefing also touches upon the Government's ongoing consultation on 'Labour Market Exploitation: Improving Enforcement' that closes on 7th December 2015. 

November 2015 - Caroline Robinson

This is FLEX's analysis of the UK Department for Business Innovation and Skills and Home Office ongoing consultation on Tackling Exploitation in the Labour Market that closes on 7th December 2015. FLEX sets out core questions about the consultation approach and direction of travel for labour inspection in the UK. We also question the use of the term 'organised labour market exploitation' in the document that we believe is poorly defined and founded on limited understanding of the drivers of labour exploitation in the UK today. 

October 2015

This Policy Blueprint sets out a framework for labour inspection to combat trafficking for labour exploitation in the UK. It highlights ways in which labour inspection can succeed in preventing modern slavery from taking place as well as how it can help victims of severe exploitation to exit such situations. It argues that only with victim-centred labour inspection and enforcement will the UK stand a chance of meeting its international commitments to prevent modern slavery.

October 2015

FLEX’s Committee Stage Parliamentary Briefing on the Immigration Bill calls for amendments to be made in the following areas: to ensure the Director of Labour Market Enforcement has the protection of workers as their primary purpose; to establish a means of formal engagement between any Director and civil society; for the ‘labour market enforcement strategy’ to make an assessment of obstacles to effective labour market enforcement; to provide that the Director makes an assessment of the resources required for effective labour market enforcement, rather than to determine how available resources should be allocated; to ensure that the Strategy does not divert labour inspection agencies from existing work; to ensure that the annual report of the Director makes an assessment of labour abuses faced by workers and remedies received; and to remove the offence of illegal working from the Bill. Joint opposition amendments were made in all these areas at Committee stage on 27th October. 

October 2015

This submission sets out key legal definitions of relevance in considering the role of the Director of Labour Market Enforcement set out in Part One of the UK Immigration Bill. It also sets out key laws and regulations of relevance to modern slavery indicators to be considered within the remit of the Director. Finally it argues that victims of modern slavery will be made more vulnerable to exploitation by the Immigration Bill proposed Clause 8 ‘offence of illegal working’.

October 2015 - Caroline Robinson

Policy Director Caroline Robinson gave evidence to the House of Commons Public Bill Committee on the Immigration Bill on 20 October 2015 on proposals for a new 'Director of labour market enforcement' to address exploitation in the UK. This evidence covers: The need for a firewall between immigration control and labour inspection; The importance of labour inspection to enforce labour standards and the absence of labour inspection in the UK; The threat to trafficked persons posed by a proposed 'illegal working offence' in the Immigration Bill; and How effective labour inspection to address exploitation must have the protection of workers and labour rights at its core. 

September 2015 - Caroline Robinson

The focus of this article is on advocacy opportunities provided by the anti-trafficking framework in a new political climate. Through the case study of the UK Modern Slavery Act 2015 deliberations the article explores opportunities to use political interest in human trafficking to advocate labour rights and protections for vulnerable workers. The article explores how, largely cynical, political motivations for the debate on ‘modern slavery’ in the UK, provided an opportunity to reframe the anti-trafficking discourse in this context.

August 2015 - Caroline Robinson

This article sets out how despite the first elements of the government’s Modern Slavery Act become law in July, good work in this area risks being undone by a hard line and ultimately counterproductive immigration policy. It highlights how policies and practices putting immigration control above all else will result in increased forced labour and modern-day slavery in the UK.

July 2015 - Claire Falconer

This article considers the changes coming into force under the Modern Slavery Act, and discusses the work to be done to ensure that these new measures strengthen the protection of victims’ rights and prevent the exploitation of vulnerable workers.

July 2015

In this working paper FLEX sets out the main findings from national research by  FLEX in the UK, FairWork in the Netherlands and ADPARE in Romania as part of the Pro-Act Project on pro-active identification and support to victims of trafficking for labour exploitation. These findings provide the basis for the development of strategies to improve the pro-active identification and support to persons trafficked for labour exploitation, which will be piloted over six months in each of the partner countries. The Pro-Act Project is co-funded by the Prevention of and Fight against Crime Programme of the European Union. This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the European Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

April 2015 - Claire Falconer

In March 2015 the Modern Slavery Act 2015 received Royal Assent, but what difference does the law really make for actual and potential victims of severe exploitation? Of course this largely remains to be seen, but there are some areas in which the new law has potential to improve the situation of exploited workers. Whilst the Act shows progress in the UK’s approach to forced labour, slavery and human trafficking, it is far too heavily weighted towards prosecution, rather than prevention and protection, and effective responses have been thwarted by immigration concerns.

April 2015 - Caroline Robinson

The modern slavery act is seen as a righteous cause for many UK decision makers, however victims of exploitation do not share the simplistic moral narrative, seeking practical solutions not benevolence.  In ongoing research Focus on Labour Exploitation (FLEX) is conducting with partners in Romania and the Netherlands, we are speaking to trafficked persons, service providers and government agencies about identification and support in cases of trafficking for labour exploitation. The picture emerging shows a need for practical solutions, not benevolence.

March 2015

Prevention is considered the foundation of any anti-trafficking response yet UK efforts to prevent trafficking to date have been patchy and prevention work has largely been left to the poorly resourced Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA). This paper sets out a roadmap for prevention for the UK including four measures that would improve prevention, including improved labour standard monitoring, the enforcement of employment law and ensuring that immigration responses do not contribute to trafficking for labour exploitation.

March 2015

Access to justice for trafficked persons is fundamental to a rights-based response to human trafficking or ‘modern day slavery’. The ability of victims to access legal remedies promotes their rehabilitation, prevents re-trafficking and contributes to the punishment of traffickers. Yet around the world weak laws and a lack of political commitment to victims’ rights means that justice is rarely a reality for victims. This paper sets out five steps the UK can take to improve access to justice for trafficked persons.

February 2015

FLEX Parliamentary Briefing including recommendations for the UK Modern Slavery Bill at Lords Report Stage in the Houses of Parliament. This briefing calls for the Gangmasters’ Licensing Authority (GLA) and Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate to have their resources increased in order that they might conduct pro-active labour inspection to prevent trafficking for labour exploitation. The briefing called for the GLA to have its remit extended to all ‘high-risk’ labour sectors in order to ensure its licensing standards cover all vulnerable workers.

July 2014 - Caroline Robinson

As politicians of all parties declare their support for ending slavery in the UK, there is a unique opportunity to put in place measures that would ensure no worker ends up in exploitation. But this opportunity will be missed if our leaders continue to talk tough on modern slavery without recognising that labour protections for all workers are the first line of defence in this fight. Our job is to make the argument that protections are most useful before someone becomes a victim and therefore should be applied to all workers regardless of migrant status.

July 2014

This briefing raises concerns that the Modern Slavery Bill is narrowly focused on criminal justice issues, with minimal provision for prevention and the protection of victims. It highlights how, without prevention and protection, the two core planks of the ‘three Ps’ response, efforts to eradicate modern day slavery will fail. The briefing calls for measures to prevent trafficking and forced labour abuses by providing for a strong labour inspection system as a first line of defence against labour exploitation. It also highlights the need to protect victims by adopting a broader approach to justice that extends beyond prosecutions and prioritises protection for victims.

April 2014 - Claire Falconer

FLEX responds, following publication of the Joint Committee on the Draft Modern Slavery Bill comprehensive analysis of the draft Bill. The Committee's report provides a strong basis for amendment of the Bill, to pull its focus back to the victims it seeks to protect and to the exploitation it seeks to prevent.

March 2014 - Caroline Robinson

In August 2013 the UK Home Secretary declared modern slavery a personal priority and a draft Modern Day Slavery bill was hastily published by December, outlining the government's blue-print for the UK's approach to ending human trafficking. FLEX support strong efforts to tackle this crime. However, too often politicians and activists eager to abolish 'modern day slavery' demonstrate a desire to 'unchain' or save victims from their enslavement, that focuses on the end point, rather than the beginning of the trafficking process. A more victim-centred response adopts lower-profile but more effective steps to prevent victims from being enslaved in the first place.

February 2014

The UN Human Trafficking Protocol (2003) sets out the ‘three P’ approach to trafficking, which establishes prevention, protection and prosecution as central to efforts to combat human trafficking. Effective labour inspection and regulation is key to the prevention of trafficking for labour exploitation. Strong human rights standards for victim assistance and support should inform statutory protection of trafficked persons. Finally, effective oversight, through a truly independent, expert anti-slavery commissioner, ensures that anti- trafficking responses are meeting their stated aims.

December 2013 - Caroline Robinson and Claire Falconer

Instead of offering legal clarification, the bill offers confused definitions, a blinkered focus on prosecution and an anti-slavery commissioner whose resources and activities would be controlled by the home secretary. Far from a credible attempt to address a complex problem, the bill in its current form is more concerned with what the UK is seen to be doing than the real impact of our actions.  

November 2013

This submission responds to questions set by the Modern Slavery Bill Evidence Review committee led by Frank Field MP. FLEX gave written and oral evidence to the committee highlighting the need for strong prevention measures to be included in the Modern Slavery Bill.