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Common signs of modern slavery

You might feel like modern slavery just doesn’t exist in the circles you move in - most of us assume this - but victims of modern slavery can be anywhere. It could be the cleaner, a homeless person you pass on the street, the builder working on your house, or it could even be someone you know who is a victim of domestic servitude or sexual exploitation. Or financial exploitation for example. 

Someone you know could have a decent job, but they may have been forced into giving a perpetrator’s bank details to their employer instead of their own - which means they are under threat of some kind and technically not being paid.

Usually, a victim of modern slavery can behave in ways that seem unusual, or their circumstances may strike you as odd. Even though each person and case is different, so the signs can vary, there are a few red flags that we’ll cover below. 

If you suspect that you’re interacting with someone who may be a victim, you may notice that they:

  • Don't know their own home or work address
  • Are distrustful of the authorities
  • Have limited social interaction - they may avoid eye contact, not talk at all, or may only talk when certain colleagues or bosses are not around
  • Have limited access to hygiene facilities and clean clothes, so this can show in their personal appearance
  • Change the facts or their description of events if they’re recounting a story
  • Or they may show signs of fear, anxiety, or trauma - such as PTSD. 

Victims of modern slavery may also:

  • Behave as if their movements and choices are controlled by someone else
  • Have their passport and identity documents being ‘looked after’ by someone else
  • Have unexplained physical injuries
  • Have problems with substance misuse
  • Have limited contact with their family, or
  • Display inappropriate sexual behaviour

It’s also important to remember these signs may not be a result of modern slavery - but they are potential red flags. If you know, or even just suspect, that modern slavery is taking place, you should call 999 if there is an immediate risk to someone’s safety.  Or you should call the police on 101 or the Modern Slavery Helpline if a risk is present, but it’s not an emergency. 

Modern Slavery Training

Our IOSH Approved Modern Slavery Training is the perfect tool for those who would like to know more about what you and your organisation can do to help eradicate modern slavery, how you should report, handle & acknowledge modern slavery around the workplace, and the modern slavery umbrella. In just 25 minutes employees will be able to complete this course with a printable certificate upon completion. 

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