Modern Slavery

If someone shows a number of the following characteristics, they might be being exploited. Knowing how to ‘spot the signs’ and report concerns to the appropriate channels can save lives.



If a person:

is unable to communicate freely.

is not allowed to speak for themselves when they’re spoken to.

has limited family contact.

shows signs that their movements are being controlled.

is being forced to work to pay off a debt (even if they are ill).

doesn’t have access to their own passport, travel documents or ID.



If a person:

is forced to work in poor conditions.

works excessively long hours.

has no days off.

is working against their will.

is paid little or nothing.

has no access to their earnings.

lives in poor accommodation.

has no access to medical care.



If a person:

is always anxious or afraid.

is subjected to violence or threats.

is disciplined through punishment.

appears distrustful of the authorities.

acts as if they were instructed by someone else.



If a person:

has false ID or travel documents.

unable to communicate in the local language.

doesn’t know their home or work addresses.

comes from a place known to be a source of human trafficking.

lives or works in a type of location likely to be used for exploiting people.




Children who have been exploited may:

Have no access to their parents or guardians.

Look intimidated and behave in a way that does not correspond with behaviour that is typical of children their age.

Have no friends of their own age outside of school.

Have no access to education.

Have no time for playing.

Live apart from other children and in substandard accommodations.

Eat apart from other members of their ”family”.

Only be given leftovers to eat.

Be engaged in work that is not suitable for children.

Travel unaccompanied by adults.

Travel in groups with persons who are not relatives.


The following might also indicate that children have been exploited:

The presence of child-sized clothing typically worn for doing manual or sex work.

The presence of toys, beds and children’s clothing in inappropriate places such as brothels and factories.

A claim made by an adult that he or she has “found” an unaccompanied child.

The finding of unaccompanied children carrying telephone numbers for calling taxis.

The discovery of cases involving illegal adoption.



People who have been exploited for the purpose of domestic servitude may:

Live with a family.

Not eat with the rest of the family.

Have no private space.

Sleep in a shared or inappropriate space.

Be reported missing by their employer even though they are still living in their employer’s house.

Never or rarely leave the house for social reasons.

Never leave the house without their employer.

Only be given only leftovers to eat.

Be subjected to insults, abuse, threats or violence.



People who have been affected by sexual exploitation may:

Be of any age, although the age may vary according to the location and the market.

Move from one brothel to the next or work in various locations.

Be escorted to and from work as well as other outside activities.

Have tattoos or other marks indicating “ownership” by their exploiters.

Work long hours or have few, if any, days off.

Sleep where they work.

Live or travel in a group, sometimes with other women who do not speak the same language.

Have very few items of clothing.

Have clothes that are mostly the kind typically worn for doing sex work.

Only know how to say sex-related words in the local language or in the language of the client group.

Have no cash of their own.

Be unable to show any identity document.


The following might also indicate that someone has been sexually exploited:

There is evidence that suspected victims have had unprotected and/or violent sex.

There is evidence that suspected victims cannot refuse unprotected and/or violent sex.

There is evidence that a person has been bought and sold.

There is evidence that groups of women are under the control of others.

Advertisements are placed for brothels or similar places offering the services of women of a particular ethnicity or nationality.

It is reported that sex workers provide services to a clientele of a particular ethnicity or nationality.

It is reported by clients that sex workers do not smile.



People who have been trafficked for labour exploitation may:

Live in groups in the same place where they work and leave those premises infrequently, if at all.

Live in degraded, unsuitable places, such as in agricultural or industrial buildings.

Not be dressed adequately for the work they do: for example, they may lack protective equipment or warm clothing.

Only be given leftovers to eat.

Have no access to their earnings.

Have no labour contract.

Work excessively long hours.

Depend on their employer for a number of services, including work, transportation and accommodation.

Have no choice of accommodation.

Never leave their work premises without their employer.

Be unable to move freely.

Be subject to security measures designed to keep them at their work premises.

Be disciplined through fines.

Be subjected to insults, abuse, threats or violence.

Lack basic training and professional licences.


The following might also indicate that someone may have been subjected to labour exploitation:

Notices have been posted in languages other than the local language.

There are no health and safety notices.

The employer or manager is unable to show records of wages paid to workers.

The health and safety equipment is of poor quality or is missing.

Equipment is designed or has been modified so that it can be operated by children.

There is evidence that labour laws are being breached.

There is evidence that workers must pay for tools, food and/or accommodation, or that those costs are being deducted from their wages.


If you have concerns that someone is being exploited, or suspect modern slavery/human trafficking, call 08000 121 700 (National 24h Helpline) or report online

The specialist helpline is confidential and independent, with access to translation services for over 200 languages.

Even if you are unsure, report your concerns.

In an emergency, call 999.

Read more about the Herts Modern Slavery Partnership here :