What is Modern Slavery?

Modern slavery (also known as human trafficking) is a serious crime which demeans the value of human life. It involves the recruitment and movement of the most vulnerable men, women and children to exploit them in degrading situations for financial rewards for their traffickers. Trafficking often takes place across international borders; but it can also happen within the United Kingdom. Victims might be foreign nationals, but can also include British Citizens. It has a devastating effect not only on the individuals trafficked but also their families who may themselves be subjected to threats or be in debt to traffickers.

Definition in law

All three of the following items must be present in order to meet the definition of trafficking, unless the person trafficked is under 18yrs old, in which case only the ‘act’ and ‘purpose’ are required.


The Act (what is done)

Recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons.

The Means (how it is done)

Threat or use of force, coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power or vulnerability, or giving payments or benefits to a person in control of the victim.


The Purpose (why it is done)

For the purpose of exploitation, which includes exploiting the prostitution of others, sexual exploitation, forced labour, slavery or similar practices and the removal of organs or body tissue.

#Be A Voice

This campaign aims to raise awareness of spotting the signs of modern slavery and human trafficking and reporting to the relevant people. 

Further guidance is on the Essex Police website.

What does it look like

There are numerous indicators, examples are:

  • Living at workplace with employer

  • Housed with multiple people, cramped living space, poor living conditions

  • Working long hours; little or no pay

  • No identification, travel documents

  • Children not at school

  • Physical signs of abuse and/or psychological effects

  • 3rd Party insists on being present or interpreting

Reporting Concerns

  • In an emergency dial 999
  • To contact the Police dial 101
  • Anonymous info? Call CrimeStoppers – 0800 555111
  • Victim self-referral? Salvation Army - 0300 303 8151

Resources and what we're doing in Essex

ESAB’s annual conference 2015 welcomed Gangmasters Licensing Association to give a keynote presentation on trafficking, and there was a workshop on modern slavery in Essex run by Essex Police. Presentation can be accessed here.

All our safeguarding basic awareness training and e-learning includes modern slavery, training can be accessed in the Learning and Development section

There is information on slavery in the SET Safeguarding Adult Guidelines.

Take a look at the SET Modern Slavery Guidance

National Resources

Modern slavery: identifying and supporting victims - This document supports health staff when they suspect a patient is a victim of modern slavery.

Modern slavery: duty to notify - downloadable factsheet and posters for professionals, which explain what to do if you think someone has been a victim of modern slavery.

Modern slavery victims: referral and assessment forms - refer potential victims of modern slavery/human trafficking to the national referral mechanism.