New anti-slavery laws giving the police and prosecutors an additional weapon in the fight against forced or compulsory labour came into effect on 6 April.
The Government says the legislation is aimed at migrant workers who do not speak much English, who are not aware of their employment rights or do not know how to report what is happening to them.
Section 71 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 introduces a new offence of holding someone in slavery or servitude, or requiring a person to perform forced or compulsory labour. The offence will apply to anyone who holds someone else in these circumstances.
Anyone found guilty faces a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison. Under the Act, forced or compulsory labour will require a level of coercion or deception between the employer and the victim, beyond that of a normal employment arrangement.
The employer must know that the arrangement was oppressive and not truly voluntary, or must have turned a blind eye to that fact.
A number of factors may point to forced or compulsory labour. The kind of behaviour that might, of itself, amount to forced labour includes (but is not limited to):
• violence or threats of violence by the employer or the employer’s representative
• threats against the worker’s family
• threats to report the worker to the authorities, for example because of the worker’s immigration status or offences they may have committed in the past
• the person’s documents, such as a passport or other identification, being withheld by the employer
• being forced to live or remain in a particular area, perhaps in poor accommodation
• debt bondage, where the victim is unable to pay off the debt
• not paying agreed wages.