DeCONTSTRUCTing how business should respond to instances where modern slavery is identified.
On 10th of July 2018 Action Sustainability hosted a breakfast briefing on ‘Modern slavery -Intelligence and Strategic framework’. The session was facilitated by Helen Carter from Action Sustainability with Sam Ireland from the Gangmasters Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) discussing what intelligence is.
The participants were given the opportunity to ask questions and discuss points during the interactive session,
The Construction sector represents six percent of global GDP. It is estimated that 7% of the global workforce is engaged in the construction industry, but with a growing skills shortage this is becoming a more acute global problem for the industry and arguably leaves itself vulnerable to forced labour, modern slavery and bribery and corruption. See our previous blog ‘CONSTRUCTING a new approach to CSR’
One of the questions that was raised was ‘how should a business be responding to modern slavery where it is discovered? And what is the role of whistleblowing?
It is perhaps essential at this point to highlight some of the key issues that arise in the instance that a victim is either identified in a business situation or where someone comes forward and presents themselves as a victim.
The first concern is ensuring that neither the victim nor the organisation is at risk.
The second is knowing that if information is provided to the enforcement bodies, how that information is dealt with.
The third is knowing which bodies have enforcement powers and the role of NGOs and other bodies that play a role in rescuing victims.
Finally, there is the internal reporting structures and awareness raising that should be in place to ensure that the business is comfortable that in the event of modern slavery being spotted it is not caught by surprise.
Ensuring that the victim and those in the organisation are not at risk is key. Whilst it may be in the ‘superhero’ prowess of some people to want to go ahead and either tackle the suspected perpetrators directly or indeed publish that the police will be called this may cause both the victim and the company to be at further risk. Traffickers will in the words of Samantha Ireland’ ‘lift and shift’ and it’s likely that the victim will suffer more abuse. Samantha pointed out that the best way of dealing with the issue would be to handle it in the same way the organisation would handle any employee in distress. To simply quietly and discreetly take them to a medical room or room out of sight of others, reassure them and speak to them to establish the facts.
The second key point is understanding that when information is provided to an enforcement body, there are different responses to the receipt of that information. Intelligence is not just information. It is actionable information. A key priority for law enforcement is that the person who provides the information about a possible case of slavery or exploitation is kept confidential and protected. (unless of course it is a perpetrator that becomes implicated in the prosecution). This understanding will overcome the fear of some employees about giving information to law enforcement.
Once the intelligence is gathered it goes through a process to assess the risk and priority of the information to further investigate the matter and if necessary initiate an investigation.
Which bodies have enforcement powers in the UK?
There seems to be a lack of understanding as to which bodies are given enforcement powers. Samantha clarified this explaining that the following bodies are the only ones in the UK, outside of the police, granted with the appropriate legal powers to take enforcement action:
- The GLAA have been specifically set up to investigate labour abuse
- The Employment Standards Agency
- The National minimum wage team
The third point about understanding the powers of the different UK enforcement agencies is key, particularly in relation to clarifying the role that NGOs play where their objective is to rescue victims.
Some NGOs are involved in rescuing victims and are increasingly providing support to business in relation to the risk of identifying victims, for example Hope for Justice. This kind of service is particularly critical in jurisdictions where there is no rule of law, the police are corrupt and there is not necessarily the kind of co-operation and information sharing that takes place in the UK. Business should take this into account when developing their due diligence and reporting processes for supply chains that exist outside of the UK and the role that NGOs may play in this instance. Partnering with NGOs may be critical in relation to many aspects of addressing modern slavery risk, but business should also ensure that they understand what objectives they are trying to meet and who is best place to advise them on the different areas of concern. NGOs have no enforcement powers to rescue victims in the UK.
The final point relates to internal reporting processes. We were asked ‘what does a robust due diligence procedure look like’? ‘how far do we need to go investigating our suppliers’? A robust due diligence procedure will ensure that an organisation has appropriate policies and procedures in place. It will also ensure that both managers and employees understand how and where to report on any instances of modern slavery risk. There will be appropriate training structures in place too.
The answers to the question on how far an organisation should go down its supply chain depends on a number of factors, but what is key is that internal reporting and risk processes are in place and that employees and if necessary suppliers know how and where to report.
If your organisation wants to establish whether there are gaps in their current due diligence processes in addressing modern slavery risk, we have a checklist that covers questions such as identifying sub-contracting risk, top issues for the board to consider, key policies that are required. There is a scorecard attached to the checklist to enable an organisation to benchmark its performance. In addition to this checklist Action Sustainability and Ardea International have partnered to develop a mitigation and continuous improvement programme: ACT to END slavery to support companies that are looking to tackle modern slavery risk .
“The GLAA is the foremost investigative agency for modern slavery and labour exploitation in the UK. We were handed new police-style powers by the government last year which has allowed us to tackle abuse across all sectors in the labour market. It has also meant we are able to search and seize evidence, investigate modern slavery in the workplace, and go after rogue businesses.
If you have any concerns about labour exploitation, please don’t hesitate in calling our dedicated intelligence team on 0800 432 0804 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Your information really does count and we all have a moral and ethical responsibility to put an end to these offences.”
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