The number of people referred to the authorities as potential victims of labour exploitation in the UK increased by 33% between 2015 and 2016.
Kroll’s analysis of National Crime Agency data found there were 1,575 referrals for labour exploitation in 2016. Some 70% of these (1,107) were adults and 30% (468) were minors.
The figures mean the number of adults referred had increased by 24% compared to the previous year, whereas the number of minors had increased by 63%.
The country of origin for the highest number of potential victims of labour exploitation in the UK was Vietnam, where 307 people had come from.
It was followed by Albania with 194 potential victims and Poland with 140.
When there is a suspected case of labour exploitation, police forces, the UK Border Force or social services pass on possible victims to the UK National Referral Mechanism (NRM), the framework set up to identify victims of modern slavery within the country.
Over half the cases reported in 2016 are awaiting a final outcome.
Kroll said the increased numbers cast a spotlight on an issue that is of increasing concern to businesses, particularly in sectors such as retail and manufacturing.
Under the Modern Slavery Act 2015 businesses with an annual turnover of £36m or more must make public the steps they are taking to ensure modern slavery is not taking place in their business or supply chain.
Kevin Braine, head of Kroll’s Compliance Practice in EMEA, said: “There is sometimes a false assumption that modern slavery only occurs in certain countries or certain types of industry.
“But the increase in the number of referrals of labour exploitation victims indicate that modern slavery is very much an issue for UK employers. Any commercial activity involved in the production of low-margin, low-skill, labour-intensive goods or services is potentially at risk of modern slavery offences.
Braine added that even lower risk businesses, such as professional services firms, are now waking up to the fact that they may be sourcing goods or services from third parties that have few or no modern slavery controls in place.
These could include wholesalers that source staff uniforms or contractors handling cleaning and maintenance services for their offices.
“Risks tend to increase when a business relies on seasonal, casual or migrant workers, uses third party agents to source labour, or sources goods or services through convoluted or opaque supply chains,” he added.
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