Food firms should check agencies to stop slavery

By Noli Dinkovski

- Last updated on GMT

Food manufacturers have been warned to check the credentials of hired migrant labour
Food manufacturers have been warned to check the credentials of hired migrant labour

Related tags Law

Food manufacturers are being encouraged to check the credentials of hired migrant labour after the Salvation Army reported a five-fold increase in the number of slavery victims it had helped in England and Wales since 2012.

Producers have been advised to go “above and beyond”​ simply checking the licensing credentials of third-party agencies, and engage with the workers to find out more about their payment terms, living conditions, and circumstances behind arriving in the country.

The growing problem has been acknowledged by Prime Minister Theresa May, who in July put £33.5M behind a new taskforce to combat slavery.

It follows on from the establishment of the Modern Slavery Act in 2015.

Jayne Hussey, partner at legal firm Mills & Reeve, said manufacturers’ responsibility shouldn’t stop at checking whether third-party agencies were licensed by the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA).

‘Where the labour is coming from’

“A producer should be aware of where the labour is coming from, and the conditions and terms of that labour.

“For example, if the workers are staying in temporary housing, who has provided that temporary housing? Where is the temporary housing, and what condition is it in?”

According to Hussey, it was about having a “nose” ​for things that didn’t seem quite right.

“There are some really good toolkits around, but you need to make sure it’s more than just a tick-box exercise,” ​she said.

‘Where is the evidence’

“You can convince yourself that correct procedures are being followed, but where is the evidence behind it?”

Shanta Martin, human rights specialist at law firm Leigh Day, said food manufacturers should not only comply with existing obligations but also consider the direction in which the law and consumer expectations were moving.

“There is a trend towards greater accountability and food manufacturers that take proactive steps to eliminate the driving forces of modern slavery (short-term labour demands, impossibly short turnaround times, low wages) will find themselves ahead of the game,” ​she said.

The Modern Slavery Act​ requires businesses with a turnover above £36M to publish an annual statement confirming steps had been taken to prevent slavery and human trafficking.

Meanwhile, in July a toolkit was launched​ to help firms guard against the risk of modern slavery in their global supply chains

Related topics People & Skills Services

Related news

Show more

Related products

Carbon Reduction for Large Energy Users

Carbon Reduction for Large Energy Users

Content provided by ESB Energy | 12-Nov-2021 | Product Brochure

ESB Energy Business Solutions can help you meet your companies carbon targets by 2050. We offer a range of sustainable tailored solutions to reduce the...

Related suppliers

Follow us

Featured Jobs

View more


Food Manufacture Podcast

Listen to the Food Manufacture podcast