UK Cleaning Services and Modern Slavery
The UK cleaning sector is widely held to be one of the most likely places for human traffickers to place their victims. Or, for unscrupulous companies to practise modern slavery, treating staff poorly, using debt bondage and other forced labour methods to create higher profit margins.
Much of this crime is carefully hidden. Though according to the Office for National Statistics https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/articles/modernslaveryintheuk/march2020 in the 12 months leading to March 2019 there were 5,144 modern slavery offences placed on record in England and Wales. This represented a 51% increase from the previous year.
It’s easy to believe you can spot the signs of human trafficking and exploitation, when in fact much of it happens ‘in plain sight’. Just a quick glance at some of the information released by the UK’s Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority www.gla.gov.uk
shows that everything from nail salons to car washes could be exploiting their staff under the terms of modern slavery.
Increasing reliance on cheap cleaning agencies may be exacerbating the problem, and the GLAA has expressed concern that modern slavery is worsening in this sector.
How we take steps to protect our workforce
Clearly, companies are urged to choose cleaning contractors which take a firm stance on this issue.
It is certainly something Total Support Services takes seriously, and the management team has taken robust steps to ensure transparency throughout its business operations. Including strict adherence to the highest possible standards of employee support.
Our stance echoes The United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, endorsed by the UN in 2011. These lay out some of the actions you need to take in complex organisations to protect workers and avoid modern slavery.
This includes having strict recruitment policies. It is vital to have a workforce that is willing, engaged and fully supported.
Also, we encourage and support feedback from staff at all levels. This includes having clear line managers to who staff feel safe talking with. Not only does this facilitate open discussion about work conditions, but it also provides us with early warnings of things that need to be addressed quickly.
Better support for our clients
This level of awareness and control helps us to manage our whole supply chain too, vetting all companies and agencies we deal with thoroughly.
Also, if we choose our suppliers with care – and treat our workforce with respect – our clients benefit from a better engaged and motivated cleaning team too.