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In the hospitality industry, workers from across the world can be lured to the UK by the false promise of decent work and the opportunity to build a better life, only to find themselves abused and taken advantage of. They might be unable to leave their employer, abused, forced to pay off “debts”, or made to live and work in horrible conditions.

The Problem: Modern Slavery in the Hospitality Sector

Like many industries, the hospitality industry is not immune to the challenges of addressing slavery and trafficking in its own supply chains. Yet, as the UK’s fourth largest employer, it could take a strong stand against Modern Slavery, and some hotel chains and trainers have shown amazing leadership in this area.

A number of different risk areas and issues threaten workers in the hospitality industry such as the difficulties of transparency in lengthy supply chains that hide exploitative conditions, unscrupulous practices in multi-tiered recruitment operations and, perhaps most importantly, a lack of knowledge from other employees that mean abuses can go on unnoticed by even well-intentioned managers and remain hidden.

Additionally, traffickers use hotels, B&Bs etc as locations for keeping people who are being moved from one place of exploitation to another, as well as locations for exploitation, such as in selling sex with trafficked adults and children.


Risks to Hospitality Businesses with Slavery in their Supply Chains

Modern slavery is often closely linked to organised crime, and illegal trafficking gangs go to great lengths to disguise their crimes and falsify documentation. This means that within larger organisations, such as hotels with multi-tiered management and subcontracted services, such as housekeeping, managers have little contact with staff at the bottom. Even when managers are committed to good labour practices, their systems cannot necessarily guarantee that they are implemented.

The current environment of raised consumer interest, investor scrutiny and increasing legislation aimed at penalising complacent businesses means that companies can no longer ignore the issue. The principal risks now go beyond ethical and moral concerns to affecting the bottom line of companies as legal, financial and reputational ramifications of passivity in the face of the problem develop.

These threats have mobilised businesses in the formation of several cross-industry engagement groups and organisations focusing on the issue. The International Tourism Partnership (ITP) is an example of such an association, whose membership comprises of FTSE-100 and other large, globally- recognised, brands, who have identified the risk that this appalling crime poses to their companies and employees and wish to engage in CSR activities around the issue.


A Solution: Training Junior Staff

We want to develop an effective, efficient and collaborative approach to prevent modern slavery. There is already leadership with the hospitality industry, and we want to make it easier for businesses, including small businesses, to protect their workforce and reduce their risk of modern slavery in their supply chains.

We believe that training junior staff is a possible effective and efficient solution. Junior staff are much more likely than managers to have day-to-day contact with subcontracted staff and those workers that might be the most vulnerable to abuse. Knowing the warning signs and who to contact if employees suspect that Modern Slavery is occurring, is key to addressing exploitation as it is a silent crime where victims are unable to speak up, or do not have the language skills to do so.


Embedding modern slavery awareness at NVQ and apprenticeship level would mean that:

  • Staff with the most exposure to potentially and actually vulnerable workers can identify them and notify HR managers so that action can be taken
  • As junior staff are promoted, organisations become stronger on modern slavery prevention at all levels of management
  • Knowledge of modern slavery is not only limited to those working for companies that are leaders in this area, spreading good practice throughout the industry.

TAKE ACTION: Write to your MP or MEP 

- As apprenticeships and vocational training are being reviewed in the UK, could modern slavery be embedded in the curriculum?

- Use some of the facts and information above to explain why this is important and could make a difference. 

- Could modern slavery be embedded in European Training Standards?

- Share any personal or local stories that you have about modern slavery in hotels, restaurants - why does this issue matter to you?


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