Experts give advice to builders on how to guard against modern slavery in supply chains

Modern slavery is “certain” to be in UK construction supply chains, the government has warned.

Speaking at the Modern Slavery and Ethical Labour in Construction Symposium at the House of Commons on Thursday, anti-slavery commissioner Kevin Hyland warned construction leaders: “We need huge cultural change [to tackle modern slavery] and that cannot be done by legislation alone, it needs leaders.”

Recent Home Office statistics suggest there could be as many as 13,000 victims of modern slavery in the UK across all sectors.

Shortly after becoming prime minister, Theresa May vowed to tackle modern slavery, calling it “the greatest human rights issue of our time.”

Mark Heath, head of business change and development at quango the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA), said communication between the private sector, the regulator and the GLA would be key in tackling the issue.

Giving advice to construction firms, he added: “What we encourage businesses to do is have a robust recruitment process … and encourage an open dialogue with the labour workforce so you can build that trust and get them to open up [if they are victims of modern slavery].”

Also speaking at the event was Interserve sustainable procurement manager Dan Firth, who highlighted the main risk areas for the firm and gave examples of how to spot signs of slavery.

Firth said: “One of the areas of highest risk is bringing slaves onto a client site through [a recruitment] agency that we employ. Subcontractors is another high risk area, but also subcontractors’ subcontractors.

He added: “Do you make multiple payments to the same bank account? That’s a sign slavery is going on.”

Firth also revealed the steps Interserve is taking to prevent modern slavery, including plans to train people on-site on how to spot the signs of modern slavery and covering the issue in site inductions with tips on how workers can report it.