Creating a 'Forced Labour Monitoring Group'
A research project of the Department of Sociology.
Forced Labour Monitoring Group website
The UK has a Low Pay Commission that is responsible for monitoring, and advising on, National Minimum Wage policy. In November 2008 a Fair Employment Enforcement Board was set up to look at issues of workplace exploitation and abuse beyond non-compliance with the National Minimum Wage. However, the Board met for the final time in May 2010 and
nothing has replaced it. It is our view that this reflects a failure to monitor, support and protect the UK's most vulnerable -largely temporary and migrant - workers rather than an absence of exploitation and abuse per se. ESRC follow-on funding has been gained effectively to regain the impetus that led to the Fair Employment Enforcement Board getting established
and, specifically, to set up an independent and multi-stakeholder 'Forced Labour Monitoring Group'. This group has drawn together government inspection agencies, policy makers, academics, and representatives from business, the unions and the wider voluntary and community sector. It is also both virtual (via a website) and face-to-face (via a series of five workshops). We focus on 'forced labour' because it has a basis in UK law. It was made a stand-alone criminal offence under Section 71 of the Coroners and Justice Act (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) in 2009 and Section 47 of the Criminal Justice and Licensing Act (Scotland) in 2010. In other words, the Forced Labour Monitoring Group has been directed
towards identifying and seeking to prevent specific forms of workplace abuse and exploitation that are now illegal under UK law. Examples of outlawed forced labour practices include: physical or sexual violence (threat of and/or actual harm); restriction on movement; bonded labour; withholding of wages; retention of passports and identity documents; and threat of
denunciation to the authorities (ILO, 2005: 20-21). The Forced Labour Monitoring Group has also directly intervened in current policy debates around, amongst other things: the link between immigration policy and forced labour; the future of the different UK government inspection bodies; the future of Legal Aid; and, the future of the Employment Tribunal system, as well as supporting the renaming of the AllParty Parliamentary Group on Trafficking to include the term modern day slavery in its title and giving evidence to three parliamentary groups, including the Joint Select Committee of Lords and Commons on the Modern Slavery Bill introduced by the Home Secretary in December 2013.
We see the FLMG as a pilot for a potentially permanent network that could be independent and/ or embedded within government (along the lines of either the Fair Employment Enforcement Board or an All-Party Parliamentary Group).
The original proposal had six main objectives:
1. To establish an online 'Forced Labour Monitoring Group' (FLMG) that will: disseminate and discuss research on forced labour; summarise relevant workplace statistics; identify key policy developments; and, highlight forced labour cases.
2. To organise five face-to-face workshops (each with a different theme) for those interested, or involved in, the work of the FLMG.
3. To produce an independent policy paper drawing together the conclusions and recommendations from the five face-toface FLMG workshops.
4. To use the online FLMG, the five workshops, and the policy paper as the pilot for a potentially permanent forced labour policy network (either independently constituted and/or embedded within Parliament).
5. To produce a book on 'Forced Labour in the UK'.
6. To underpin the production of academic journal articles on forced labour in the UK and beyond.
These are all under way or under consideration. We will also be producing a freestanding monograph summarising key debates from the last few years.
Workshops; interviews; evidence giving; written outputs.