What is modern slavery?

Modern slavery is the illegal exploitation of people for personal or commercial gain. It covers a wide range of abuse and exploitation including sexual exploitation, domestic servitude, forced labour, criminal exploitation and organ harvesting.

Victims of modern slavery can be any age, gender, nationality and ethnicity. They are tricked or threatened into work and may feel unable to leave or report the crime through fear or intimidation. They may not recognise themselves as a victim.


Modern slavery could be happening in your community so it’s important you know the signs that could indicate someone is a victim of this crime.

The signs aren’t always obvious but there are some that you may notice: 

  • do they look scruffy, malnourished or injured?
  • are they acting anxious, afraid or unable to make eye contact?
  • are they doing long hours, wearing unsuitable clothing or have the wrong equipment for the job?
  • is where they are living overcrowded, poorly maintained or are the curtains always closed?
  • do they behave like they’re being instructed by someone else, picked up/dropped off at the same time and place every day or don’t have access to money or identification?

Report it

Communities have an important role to play in recognising abuse. If you recognise any of the above signs and suspect someone may be a victim of modern slavery, tell someone. You will always be taken seriously and protection and support is available.

To report a suspicion or seek advice you can contact the Modern Slavery Helpline confidentially on 08000 121 700. This is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

You can also report it to us online or call us on 101 at any time to report an incident. If you're deaf or hard of hearing, use our textphone service on 18001 101.

Should you wish to remain anonymous you can contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Always call 999 if there is a crime in action or immediate threat to life. If you're deaf or hard of hearing, use our textphone service 18000 or text us on 999 if you’ve pre-registered with the emergencySMS service.

Further advice and support

Modern Slavery Helpline 
Information and advice on modern slavery.

The Salvation Army
Immediate and intensive support to ensure victims of trafficking are given the best possible chance of recovery.

Migrant Help
Support services for adult victims of human trafficking.   

Advice, advocacy and support services for migrant domestic workers.

Medaille Trust
Helps women, young men and children who have been freed from human trafficking.

Case studies

Food supplier

In 2012, workers from Lithuania were kept in appalling conditions in and subject to a climate of fear, threats and violence whilst working to provide eggs to some of the UK’s most prominent retailers and restaurants.

The workers were used to catch chickens on sites all over the UK. This labour provider subjected migrant workers to debt bondage, giving them no option to leave the squalid house in which they were forced to live and sleep. Their mattresses were infested with bed bugs and fleas.

Two people were arrested for human trafficking offences and reportedly perpetrated one of the worst cases of exploitation ever uncovered in the food supply chain.

Forced labour

Four men from the Czech Republic were offered work in Birmingham. When they arrived their documents were taken from them and they were forced to live in a house together, in squalid conditions.

Every day, they were driven to Bedfordshire to work in a bread factory. The gang master who had seized their documents registered all four men with the worker’s registration scheme, and forced the men to pay all their wages to him.

When one of them began to question his lack of wages, he was chained to a radiator and beaten. He was also burned with cigarettes.

The four men eventually escaped the situation when, on the journey to Bedfordshire, travelling in the back of a van, one man feigned illness in order to make the driver stop. When the doors were opened, the four ran in different directions and escaped.