Modern slavery

Modern slavery is when someone is forced to work for no money. It is illegal and a form of abuse.
Young woman sat in front of a crumbling brick wall

Modern slavery is illegal exploitation of people. The victims are tricked or threatened to make them work for little or no money, or to pay back a debt.

Victims of modern slavery can be any age, gender, nationality or ethnicity. The abuser uses different ways to make them work. They use fear and intimidation to stop the victims from leaving. They may also:

  • Take away any documents or steal benefits
  • Stop the victim from talking with people who could help
  • Use violence or threats of violence

Modern slavery is abuse and a crime.

Crucial: Victims of modern slavery may be from the UK or abroad and of any age. Children and young people may also be abused through Child Sexual Exploitation and Criminal Exploitation.  

Why does it happen?

Modern slavery happens because people want to work. They may be promised money that never arrives, or think they working to pay off a debt. 

Know the signs: 

  • Is the workplace dangerous? 
  • Are wages being paid on time and completely? 
  • Are workers free to leave?

Victims may be told things to make them stay. This may include:

  • What is happening to them is normal
  • They cannot trust anyone else
  • If they tell anyone else they will get in trouble

But forcing someone to work for no money is always wrong.

Support in other languages: You can download printable information sheets in lots of different languages including Albanian, Chinese and Polish from the Modern slavery : Closer than you think website, where there are also videos and infographics.


When people being exploited are taken to different towns, cities or even countries, this is called trafficking. This is abuse and support is available to stop the criminals and support the person being exploited.

Instant expert: Find out why children might be exploited in this resource from the NSPCC

Report it

If you think someone may be a victim of modern slavery, tell someone you trust like a teacher, youth worker, or school health nurse. You can also: 

This video from Unseen explains the signs to look out for. 

Am I being exploited? 

Sometimes adults who are exploiting children will describe what they are doing as employment, or a career. They may pay small amounts of money, or claim they are offering a future, or security.

For young people who have not had a job before, and even some adults (especially those with difficulties or disabilities) this can seem reasonable. The money, especially if it given as a lump sum or in cash, can seem like lots of money - even if it is a less than you could earn doing an apprenticeship.

For any new business opportunity, ask yourself these three questions:

  1. Are you being asked to do things that are illegal, risky, or which might get you into trouble?
  2. Are you working in a situation where you are unsafe, afraid of other people, or not sure where you are?
  3. Are you being threatened, abused, hurt or told you can't stop doing the job?

If you have answered yes to any of these questions, then there us a strong chance you are being exploited - even if the person giving you the job is a friend or relative.

If you are aged under 18, you are an exploited child. 

Talk as soon as possible to an adult you trust like a teacher, social worker or school health nurse, or report the situation to the police, the Local Authority or contact the Modern Slavery helpline.

Crucial: Employers have to follow rules to keep employees safe. There are extra rules if workers are under 18. Find out more about your rights when working.

Find out more


Posted by tony
Posted ago
This page should have an option of a translated version in most european and eastern european languages. So surprised that this was not thought of by lower management.

Thanks very much for your suggestion Tony. This is absolutely true, and many people who are in vulnerable situations do not have access to the internet, either. As I'm sure you saw, we link through to print-out information about trafficking in multiple languages on the NSPCC website above. As a result of your suggestion, I have also added in a link to print-out information on modern slavery in multiple languages. Thanks again for taking the time to comment.

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