Slavery and human trafficking: guidance for businesses

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

Part 3

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

Whilst the legal duty is restricted to businesses with an annual turnover of £36 million and above, the need to address human trafficking is the responsibility of all businesses

Do smaller businesses have a duty to act?

The issue of human trafficking impacts on all types of business.

While businesses covered by the Transparency in Supply Chains regulations of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 (commercial organisations with a turnover of more than £36 million) are required to file a Slavery and Human Trafficking Statement, the impact will still be felt by commercial organisations with a turnover of less than £36 million who are likely to be in the supply chains of such larger businesses.

Therefore, they will be asked to consider and report on what steps they have taken to seek out and prevent human trafficking occurring in their supply chains by businesses that they supply to. In addition, businesses may find that as part of the procurement process they are asked by public sector bodies how they are addressing the risk of human trafficking occuring within their own business, and in their supply chain.

Within a business, the issue of human trafficking is of particular relevance to teams and individuals who are 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.

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 measures are needed for smaller organisations?

Regardless of size, companies should all seek to understand human trafficking, for example through training programmes which are made a standardised part of recruitment or annual performance processes. Diligent checks of all workers should be undertaken to ensure they have access to ID documents, are not being held in debt bondage and are not being coerced by another party. For businesses such as hotels and transport, which have additional risks of traffickers using their operations for criminal ends, extra work must be undertaken to train frontline staff in spotting the signs of potential victims with clear communication pathways for what to do if an incident is observed. For many, there will be benefit in collaboration with other businesses working in similar sectors and/or geographic areas. There are networks that facilitate such collaboration, including trade union structures.

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:

  • online 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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