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How can I recognise the signs of labour exploitation?
You could be experiencing exploitation at work if:
- you are not paid at all or are paid below the rate you agreed, or are expected to work unpaid overtime
- you have little or no time off, or rest breaks
- your employer makes arbitrary, unclear or unfair deductions from your wages
- your employer has taken your passport or identity documents
- your employer provides accommodation that is cramped/unsafe or charges you more than you expected for accommodation and/or work-related transport
- you are being threatened with or are experiencing violence
- you are not being given the equipment needed to do your job safely
- you are working in unsafe conditions
What are my rights to compensation if I have been exploited at work?
If you have experienced labour exploitation you may be able to claim compensation. You should seek legal advice or ask a support worker to signpost you to advice on compensation as soon as you can. Time limits on bringing certain claims can be very short and strict.
There are a number of options for pursuing compensation, which a legal adviser can discuss with you, including:
- a claim in the employment tribunal, for unpaid wages and breaches of other employment rights
- a civil claim against an employer, such as for physical or psychiatric injury caused by exploitation
- a claim against the state, such as for failing to provide the right support and protection
- a claim to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA)
A legal adviser can provide individual advice on compensation options according to your particular circumstances.
You may be entitled to legal aid to help you claim compensation. This is where the government pays some or all of your legal costs because you do not have the money to pay for it yourself. If you are a victim of trafficking or forced labour, you may be entitled to legal aid when claiming certain forms of compensation.
Your adviser may need to ask you questions about your income and any savings, in order to assess whether you can access legal aid. A legal adviser should always provide you with a ‘client care letter’, which sets out any charges or fees and whether you are eligible for legal aid.
For more information and support
If you are looking for general information about your rights at work and how to raise an issue, you can call Acas on 0300 123 1100 or visit www.acas.org.uk. Acas is a government-run organisation that supports workers and employers to resolve problems at work.
You can also find information about your rights at work through the Mayor of London’s Employment Rights Hub. There you will find a list of independent, free and confidential employment advice services run by organisations working with migrants in the UK, including:
- Focus on Labour Exploitation (FLEX)
- Migrants at Work
- Law Centres Network
- East European Resource Centre
- Work Rights Centre
- Kalayaan (advice on domestic work only)
- Latin American Women’s Rights Service
Gangmasters & Labour Abuse Authority
They are the government agency responsible for protecting workers from exploitation. You can call them anonymously 0800 432 0804 or email them at [email protected].
If you are undocumented, this may not be the best option for you.
Modern Slavery Helpline
If you are undocumented and/or would rather contact an independent charity for information and support, you can call this helpline at 0800 121 7000.
They can advise you on your rights as a potential victim of exploitation in the UK, regardless of your immigration status. They provide support in a number of languages and calls are confidential.