What are the signs of Modern Slavery?

Modern Slavery

Signs of someone in modern slavery could include:

  • forced to work, through threats and coercion;
  • owned or controlled, through abuse which can be mental or physical or the threat of abuse;
  • dehumanised, treated as an object or bought and sold as ‘property’, also known as human trafficking.
  • Restricted in their freedom of movement or physically restrained.

There are an estimated 40.3 million people in modern slavery around the world. This includes children, women and men.

Examples of modern slavery include; young girls forced to marry older men against their will, children made to work in unsuitable environments in unlawful and exploitative ways, women forced into prostitution or men forced to work in under paid or completely unpaid work, whilst someone else benefits from their labour.  They have no free choice.

Does Modern Slavery affect only women?

Modern day slavery does not just affect one group of people, or a particular gender, racer or age. But they are generally vulnerable one way or another. Every country experiences instances of modern slavery. In Britain the Government estimates there are tens of thousands of people in modern slavery.

Being able to spot signs and identify instances of modern slavery is essential for all individuals and companies, regardless of the industry.

Here are some common signs to look out for:

Physical appearance:

  • Is the individual scared, timid, sad, anxious, submissive or nervous?
  • Do they show unusual behaviour?
  • Do they avoid conversation and eye contact?
  • Are they inappropriately dressed or dressed in clothes which are old and worn?
  • Lack general basic cleanliness?
  • Do they seem malnourished?
  • Physical signs of abuse, such as bruising?

How are they treated by others:

  • How do they interact with the people they are with?
  • Do they seem comfortable in their company?
  • Are they allowed normal liberties such as travelling alone?
  • Are they familiar with where they work and live?
  • Do others act as though they are in control of the individual?


  • Do they own their own possessions?
  • Do they have control over their own finances and documents, such as passports etc?
  • Are they permitted to speak for themselves?
  • Are they permitted privacy?

Living conditions:

  • Where do they live?
  • Is the environment appropriate, is it clean and not overcrowded?
  • Do they live and work in the same place?

In addition to this, there are other factors to consider in relation to children.

Where is their parent or guardian? If they are not with them, where are they? Who is responsible for the child? Is the child registered with the appropriate authorities such as schools and dental and health practices?

There are may other issues to consider and every large company has a responsibility under the Modern Slavery Act 2015 to publish a statement about what it is doing to prevent slavery in its business and supply chain, so any small organisation supplying larger ones and government organisations are likely to have to do the same to maintain business.

You can view our Modern Slavery online training course here.

[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/modern-slavery-and-public-health/modern-slavery-and-public-health