The UK has ratified a landmark ILO agreement to combat forced labour, people trafficking and other forms of modern slavery. Along with Niger and Norway, it is one of the first nations to sign the international convention.

The Protocol of 2014 to the Forced Labour Convention, which added new measures to the Forced Labour Convention of 1930, requires member states to take steps to prevent forced labour, as well as to provide victims with protection and access to effective remedies. It also requires due diligence in both the public and private sectors to prevent and respond to risks of forced labour.

ILO research has shown that profits from the forced labour industry are highest in developed economies and the European Union. It estimates that 21 million people are victims of forced labour around the world, producing approximately US$150 billion a year in illicit profits. The practice takes many forms, from domestic work to agriculture, fishing and construction. Women and girls, in particular, are subjected to commercial sexual exploitation.

The Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA), the public body set up in the UK to fight forced labour, is a partner of the 50 for Freedom campaign against modern slavery. The campaign, led by the ILO, the International Trade Union Confederation and the International Organisation of Employers was launched in London in October 2015. Other UK partners of the 50 for Freedom campaign include the Ethical Trading Initiative and the Institute for Human Rights and Business.

The UK’s ratification of the ILO Protocol follows a joint letter sent in December 2015 by the TUC and CBI to the Minister of State for employment.

Jo Seery of Thompsons said “this is a major step forward in ending forced labour and is very timely coming as it does when businesses should be preparing their annual slavery and human trafficking statement. S. 54 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 requires business with a global turnover of £36 million to publish an annual slavery and human trafficking statement which sets out the steps it has taken to ensure that there is no slavery or trafficking in its supply chains as well as in any part of its own business. The first statement must be published by 31 March 2016.”

To access the Protocol, go to: