Slavery and human trafficking: guidance for businesses

Tailored advice for all businesses in Scotland, regardless of size.

Part 2

What does my business need to do?
(Annual turnover £36 million plus)

Businesses with an annual turnover of £36 million or more have a legal duty under the Modern Slavery Act 2015.

Who should take the lead in my business?

It is vital that the individual or team leading the activity should have a direct link to the Senior Management team and should also have the ability and authority to engage with all parts of the business. Accountability/responsibility should be allocated at Director level.

The issue of human trafficking impacts all types of business and is of particular relevance to those responsible for:

  • supply chain and procurement of goods and services, whether for resale or not;
  • HR (responsible for recruitment, and managing labour providers/agencies);
  • operations (e.g. logistics, facilities management and estates); and
  • ethics or sustainability in larger businesses.

However, all employees of a business have the potential to identify human trafficking and exploitation and it is best practice to ensure that all employees understand the issue and what to do if they have any concerns, i.e. contacting Police Scotland or the UK Modern Slavery helpline.

Ultimately, for those businesses who are covered by the Modern Slavery Act 2015, it is the responsibility of the Board to produce and publish the annual Slavery and Human Trafficking Statement.

However, all businesses must ensure that they are not complicit in any act of Human Trafficking.

Where is this happening in businesses?

Human trafficking can occur in any part of a business, in all parts of its supply chain and in its own operations, both within the UK and abroad. In order to maximise the effectiveness of any response, efforts should be focussed on areas of greatest risk.

For instance, within the UK, sub-contracting to multiple tiers involving low-skilled workers is considered high-risk. Examples could include motor insurers contracting with a supplier who in turn sub-contracts to individual body shops for car repair or a house builder contracting with a builder who sub-contracts to bricklayers, plumbers etc.

Outside of the UK, some jurisdictions present a higher risk depending on the strength of labour laws, enforcement, the nature of the workforce, (such as whether they are predominantly migrant or lower skilled) and the presence of enabling factors, such as the payment of recruitment fees.

Wherever it occurs, exploitation is most likely to happen where there are vulnerable workers.

What should businesses do?

Regular risk assessments should be undertaken involving ongoing research, using information from others working in similar areas and from organisations such as Police Scotland, National Crime Agency, Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority, business and human rights non-government organisations (NGOs) and consultancies. Particular attention should be paid to known areas of risk, for example construction, agricultural labour and recruitment agencies (though areas of risk may change over time). The Scottish Government human trafficking webpage includes links to organisations and resources that may be helpful.

This risk assessment should be used to prioritise action, channelling resources appropriately. For example, if particular suppliers are deemed higher risk, an engagement programme could be undertaken with those to ensure they have adequate standards in place. This might include educational events, a revised code of conduct, social audits and timebound corrective action plans. A social audit is an internal examination of an organisation’s operating procedures, code of conduct, and other factors to evaluate its effect on a society.

There are many actions which might be taken by businesses, including:

  • Mapping suppliers – Where are they? Do they sub-contract? What issues are present? What happens within their own supply chains? What is the rate of pay? Are there any collective agreements in the sector? Are they enforced?
  • Advertising a whistleblowing number and/or the Modern Slavery Helpline number to employees and sub-contracted workers
  • Undertaking periodic social audits with a significant proportion of the workforce interviewed away from management oversight. This could be done by an external agency or an internal team with sufficient independence. Trade unions can also have a useful role
  • Working with inspectorates and law enforcement to share information
  • Working with expert NGOs on the ground to identify and remediate issues (particularly relevant for non-UK areas)
  • Interrogating bids for contracts which are too low-cost to ensure labour is being properly paid
  • Setting contract costs at a fair price, instead of pressuring suppliers to squeeze labour costs
  • Involving workplace unions and/or employee engagement processes
  • Communicating to labour providers and suppliers that no worker within the supply chain should be paying recruitment fees and undertaking appropriate diligence checks
  • Raising the awareness of smaller suppliers to understand the issues and take appropriate action
  • Training frontline staff in spotting the signs of potential victims with clear communication pathways for what to do if an incident is observed
  • Collaboration with other businesses working in similar sectors and/or geographic areas. There are networks that facilitate such collaboration, including trade union structures
  • Including information on human trafficking in induction training programmes or ongoing compliance processes

Worker representatives should be included in preparing these risk assessments, agreeing action plans, and ensuring that actions are carried out. Providing workers with relevant information and a voice and/or fostering positive union relations, can help progress these actions.

In Scotland, The Fair Work Framework has five indicators of Fair Work – security, opportunity, respect, fulfilment and effective voice. Viewing workplaces through the lens of these five indicators can be helpful in creating a difficult atmosphere for trafficking to breed.

What type of support is available to businesses to put such measures in place?

The Home Office has produced ‘Transparency in Supply Chains – a Practical Guide’. This is not a legal document but does provide some specific guidelines.

Additional support and guidance is available from a variety of sources such as consultants, charities, government funded bodies or auditing companies. They offer one or more of the following:

  • on-line or published resources, e.g. information and literature, toolkits and templates;
  • services e.g. face-to-face training, e-learning, auditing, helplines; and
  • bespoke support e.g. consultancy, tailored training and facilitation, research.

The Scottish Government human trafficking webpage includes links to organisations and resources that may be helpful. The Scottish Government has established a Corporate Group to support implementation of the Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy. Through this group and other networks, there are opportunities to share good practice and experience. There are also regular stakeholder forums on Strategy implementation which are often relevant to businesses. To find out more or join the stakeholder contact list, email

Trade unions can play an important role in preventing trafficking and exploitation, and in raising awareness within the workforce of issues of Fair Work, which feeds into the strategy for eradicating trafficking. Trade union reps are trained to actively scrutinise issues in the workplace around pay, health and safety, and working conditions which are all indicators for trafficking.

What will it cost?

The cost will primarily be determined by the size and scope of the business, its supply chain and the associated risks. All businesses should be taking action which is reasonable and proportionate based on the resources available and the outcome of ongoing risk assessments.

Here are some questions to consider to identify potential activities and the associated costs:

  • Where are your prioritised risks?
  • Are the risks predominantly in the UK or overseas?
  • How big is the gap in your existing policies and processes?
  • Who requires training in your organisation and/or supply chain?
  • What type of training is required?
    Face-to-face or e-learning?
  • Is there resource/expertise available internally or do you require specialist external support?
  • Do you have an existing audit function with relevant knowledge or will you require external support?
  • What level of support would your organisation prefer: standardised templates or bespoke design?

The aim of any measures is to address the organisation’s risk of human trafficking and to test how robust those measures are.

There is a lot that can be done at relatively low cost, but it’s vital that all organisations are investing appropriate resources and time to address and prevent trafficking. It’s important to remember that costs around prevention and detection are likely to be much less than potential costs of doing nothing, when risks turn into reality:

  • What is the cost involved in executive crisis management to resolve an incident of human trafficking?
  • What is the cost to a business to recover its reputation and retrieve the loss of consumers, customers and investors?


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