! Hide this page

SYMSP - click to view home page

Follow us

What is Modern Slavery?

Click on the link below for more information on modern slavery.

Modern Slavery is an umbrella term for activities involving the exploitation of person(s) for the benefit of others. It is a crime which violate people’s human rights and victims of modern slavery cannot leave their situation of exploitation as they are controlled through several means including threats, violence, coercion and deception.

People exploited through modern slavery are from all backgrounds, faiths, genders and nationalities, although there are several factors which could make a person more at-risk. Equally, there is no one perpetrator of modern slavery, but we know those who exploit others abuse a position of power or trust.

The UK Modern Slavery Act (2015) consolidated existing offences and provided new legal definitions for:

  1. Slavery, servitude, forced or compulsory labour
  2. Human Trafficking
  3. Meaning of Exploitation

These activities are defined in the Modern Slavery Act and refer to when a person or group holds another person(s) in slavery or servitude or requires them to perform forced or compulsory labour.

Slavery, Servitude, Forced or Compulsory Labour consists of:

  1. The means – being held, either physically or through threat of penalty e.g. threat or use of force, coercion, abduction, debt bondage, deception, abuse of a position of vulnerability. N.B. there does not need to be a means used for children.
  2. The service – the victim(s) provides a service e.g. manual labour, domestic services, begging.

Human trafficking is considered a form of modern slavery, however the element of movement makes it distinct.


Human trafficking consists of: 

  1. The act – what actions are taken: recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring and receiving of victims(s). N.B a person may be moved internally e.g. from Doncaster to Sheffield.
  2. The means – how it’s done: including but not limited to threats of force, coercion, abduction, debt bondage, deception, abuse of a position of vulnerability. N.B. there does not need to be a means used for children.
  3. The purpose – why it’s done: refers to the type of exploitation which takes place.


Human Trafficking is also often confused with ‘smuggling’ as they both involve movement of people. However, they are some distinct differences with smuggling:

Human Trafficking  Smuggling
Location A person may be moved across international borders or internally. A person is moved across international borders.
Consent Involves the deception or coercion of a person. Even though they may consent to travel it is under false pretences. Is a service a person may ask/pay for, despite the danger to their own safety.
Exploitation Once a person reaches their destination, they are exploited by those involved in their movement. Once a person reaches their destination, they are free to move on.

An individual may experience multiple forms of exploitation or abuse. The most common forms of exploitation include, but are not limited to:

Sexual exploitation – this includes sexual abuse, forced prostitution and forms of child sexual exploitation.

Labour exploitation – victims are forced to work long hours for little or no pay in various industries including, but not limited to, construction, agriculture, hospitality, waste and fishing.

Forced criminality – victims are compelled to commit crimes to benefit other persons e.g. shoplifting, cannabis cultivation, fraud.

Domestic servitude – victims live and work in their ‘employer’s’ household and are forced to work long hours undertaking a variety of domestic tasks for very little or no pay. This is one of the most difficult forms of exploitation to uncover due to its hidden nature.

Organ harvesting – the surgical removal of parts of the body, sold for huge profits. Whilst it is rare in the UK, it still happens.

Spot the Signs

There is no one typical victim of modern slavery, but there are some general indicators which may suggest a person is being exploited.

A person in a situation of modern slavery may:

Physical Appearance

  • Show signs of physical abuse including untreated injuries, look malnourished or unkempt
  • Be wearing inappropriate clothing for the weather or type of work they are doing
  • Appear agitated, anxious or withdrawn

Restricted Freedom

  • Show signs they are unable to move freely or are dependent on another for travel, food and/or money
  • Have their communication controlled by another person who speaks on their behalf
  • Have no identification or travel documents in their possession
  • Be vague or unclear about their address


  • Be fearful or distrustful when speaking to strangers especially those in a position of authority
  • Have limited access to family or friends
  • Be unfamiliar with the local language.


  • Be vague or unclear about what type of work they have been doing
  • Be under the impression they have had to pay for a job in the UK or concerned they are in debt to another person for their accommodation, travel and/or job.
  • Be working excessive hours and/or consistently asking for extra shifts but have very little money


  • Be found in areas away from home, or go missing for unexplained periods of time
  • Have money, gifts or items that they cannot afford and/or cannot explain
  • Have unexplained injuries and/or sexually transmitted infections


Download our Pocketbook for Professionals for more information of spotting the signs

Get Help

Call the Modern Slavery Helpline anonymously on 08000 121 700 to get help, report a suspicion or to seek advice. Or report an incident online at www.modernslaveryhelpline.org/report

Call the police on 999 in an emergency, where there is a threat to life or a crime in progress or to report an incident that isn’t an emergency call the police on 101.

Call the Salvation Army Modern Slavery referral helpline on 0800 808 3733 for confidential advice and to get support for potential victim(s) of modern slavery.