For most of us, the thought that slavery exists on our construction sites seems utterly far-fetched. As for the idea that it may be present in our own supply chains, that is surely incomprehensible.
However, unless we know where to look and how to guard against it, slavery – or lesser forms of labour exploitation - WILL find its way onto our sites.
Two laws exist to deal with the problem: the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act (2006) and the Modern Slavery Act (2015) and both carry penalties for employers who ignore their responsibilities.
Border Force have stepped up their surprise inspections, turning up and locking the site gates so they can check the identity of everyone inside. In January, for example, a National Crime Agency investigation raid in London resulted in a man being arrested on suspicion of modern slavery offences within the construction industry, with eleven suspected victims – men from Romania – being offered help and support.
The maximum penalty for using an illegal worker is £20,000 per head, with fines totalling £7.5 million imposed between January and March last year, which works out to £35 million a year. London was the hotspot with more fines that the other areas of the country combined.
No matter whether you are the main contractor or a sub-contractor, you are responsible for knowing who is working in your name, on your sites.
Hudson Contract clients, are already familiar with our method statement which carries identity and right to work checks. While behind the scenes, we do much more than just process the payroll – we also make sure:
If any of these are flagged up, it is a warning signal. We receive hundreds of contracts every week and for most queries we contact the freelancers direct, asking clients for help only if we are struggling to get the information we need. It’s all part of the Hudson Contract service.
We’re aware that gangmasters often bully an individual into having other people’s money paid to them and take off a slice for finding them work, housing them and transporting them to site. So if we see large payments to an individual, we check why this is, or if we suspect a labour provider in any way, we either offer to make them a client so they have to go through our screening, or we refuse to contract with them. This is to protect ourselves as well as our clients, and most importantly the subbies at the end of the chain.
The steps Hudson takes has meant none of our clients have ever been implicated in slavery or fined for using illegal workers. However, we are currently seeing an increased number of unregistered labour providers to fulfil demand, which is worrying.
If you have any questions about how to deal with these issues, please get in touch.