The Relevance of Modern Slavery to Occupational Health and Safety Inspectors.
Organisations today can be so complex that they could be involved in modern slavery in several ways: through their global supply chains, within their own offices, in connection with business partners, sub-contracts and many more. Therefore, companies and organisations have a significant role to play in the fight against modern slavery. Companies and employers are in a great position to mitigate and address of modern slavery. As modern slavery can occur in so many areas of the business, it is important that organisations ensure that they have a clear policy against modern slavery and that all their employees can identify modern slavery. Health inspectors in a good position to identify modern slavery, as they could spot signs when inspecting establishments. This blog post will explore what modern slavery is and why it should be relevant to health and safety inspectors.
What is Modern Slavery?
Modern slavery is an umbrella term used to cover slavery, servitude, forced or compulsory labour and human trafficking, which are defined by several international standards.
Forced or compulsory labour
is defined by the International Labour Organization (ILO) Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29) as ‘all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily’ (Art. 2.1).
can lead to situations of forced labour. According to the Trafficking Protocol, trafficking involves the ‘recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion … for the purpose of exploitation.’
Slavery and servitude
are referenced in various international instruments, separately and in conjunction with one another (e.g. the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, and the Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery)
Modern Slavery and Occupational Health and Safety
Occupational Health and Safety inspectors need to be able to understand modern slavery concern. Signs of Modern slavery could also include health and safety violations such as working excessive hours and employees not being provided with relevant protective gear. Therefore, it is important that health inspectors can identify whether there could also be cases of modern slavery. Modern slavery could appear in many parts of an organisation and hides in plain sight; therefore, it is important that all inspections take this into consideration. They should be able to recognise what practices may constitute slavery-like conditions and have processes to identify where modern slavery is likely to manifest. Evidence of other systemic human rights violations may also assist in identifying the circumstances that allow modern slavery to exist.
For instance, concerns about locked accommodation, excessive working hours or abusive behaviour can be addressed through discussions on health and safety. These are particularly useful in situations where existing contractual arrangements do not specifically address modern slavery. These considerations are relevant to companies in relation to their suppliers and contractors, and to investors in relation to their portfolio companies.
Some relevant indicators are:
- Limited freedom of movement and communication.
- Locked in work or living quarters.
- Under constant surveillance
- Multiple dependency on employer.
- Forced to work for employer’s private home or family
- Forced to stay longer than agreed while waiting for wages due.
- Forced to work for indeterminate period to repay outstanding debt or wage advance.
- Multiple dependency on employer.
- Forced engagement in illicit activities.
Steps to take when signs of modern slavery have been indicated
All health and safety inspectors should be trained on modern slavery indicators, and on what to do in such situations.
Steps that can be taken to address modern slavery indicators by an OHS inspector
These are steps that can be taken when modern slavery indicators are identified:
- Speak with appropriate management about employment contracts
- Speak with workers about their rights and responsibilities under the law to determine whether they have entered and can leave employment freely
- Discuss with employers the company policy on violence, harassment, and intimidation in the workplace, and examine copies of such policy.
- Where the company has a modern slavery policy, report concerns to the appropriate body within the organisation as set out in the policy.
- Where there is no modern slavery mitigating framework within the organisation:
- call the modern slavery helpline or fill out an online form.
- You can also contact the the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority to report concerns about the mistreatment of workers on 0800 432 0804, or by email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111
- Contact the Police
- Contact Anti-Slavery International or other specialist anti-slavery organisations
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