Slavery Offences In The Uk And What You Need To Know In 2023

Slavery Offences In The Uk And What You Need To Know In 2023

Most people, when they hear the word slavery, instinctively think about the US in the early 1800s.

However, it is an unfortunate reality that slavery is very much alive in 2023, except it is now illegal. So, if you or your company are implicated in slavery, there will be serious consequences.

In the UK, modern slavery offences are defined and governed by the Modern Slavery Act 2015. This act aims to prevent and combat various forms of modern slavery, including slavery, servitude, forced or compulsory labour, and human trafficking. The act itself covers offences committed within the UK as well as those with a UK connection that occur outside the country. So, as mentioned before, the latter refers to businesses that may have their goods made abroad and then sent to the UK.

At this point, you may be wondering what exactly counts as slavery under UK law and which areas of the act you (and others) can be arrested for. So read on, here are some key offences outlined in the Modern Slavery Act 2015.

Slavery And Forced Or Compulsory Labour

This offence involves the intentional holding of another person in slavery or servitude or requiring them to perform forced activities without their consent. It also includes controlling someone’s movement with the intention of exploiting them.

This is, sadly, the kind of slavery that is linked to overseas working in ‘sweatshops’. In the past, many workers in these environments have given statements to the authorities that they were being held to perform acts of labour for up to 18 hours per day. Sadly, this kind of slavery is not only aimed at adults but also includes children.

So, if you are a business that has overseas workers, and you have been implicated in this area of slavery offences, you will need to hire a criminal solicitor as soon as you can to begin building your defence.

Human Trafficking

Most people in the UK have heard at least one story relating to human trafficking. This offence typically involves arranging or facilitating the travel of another person with the intention of exploiting them. It includes actions such as recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring, or receipt of individuals, often through force, coercion, deception, or abuse of vulnerability.

In most cases, human trafficking is linked to sexual exploitation, but it can also be linked to compulsory labour too.



The Modern Slavery Act identifies a wide range of exploitative practices that may amount to modern slavery offences, including sexual exploitation, forced labour, domestic servitude, child exploitation, and criminal exploitation (e.g. forced involvement in illegal activities). This is seen the world over, but as mentioned before, it is more commonly seen in countries where labour laws are a bit more relaxed, especially when compared to the UK.

So, if you have concerns that there is a factory abroad that is linked to your business that is using the exploitation of workers to create goods, you need to alert the local authorities in the UK; they will be able to contact the authorities in these areas and begin investigating.

Offences By Businesses And Organisations

The Modern Slavery Act also imposes obligations on commercial organisations above a certain size to produce a slavery and human trafficking statement each year. Failure to comply with these obligations is considered an offence. So, as mentioned earlier, this segment will apply if you are a business owner who has a factory or workers who are overseas.

It’s worth noting that the Modern Slavery Act places a duty on public authorities to identify and support potential victims of modern slavery. The act also provides for various legal measures to prevent, investigate, and prosecute the people or companies who are involved in modern slavery offences.


In the UK, punishments for being involved in slavery are extremely severe, and rightly so!

If convicted for offences related to slavery or human trafficking, the penalties are likely to involve either (or both) of the following actions being taken by authorities.



Those found guilty of involvement in slavery or human trafficking can face significant prison sentences. The length of imprisonment may vary depending on the specific circumstances of the case, including factors such as the scale of the operation and the level of harm inflicted on the victims. On average, however, the standard jail time for trafficking or slavery will be about 10 years.


The court may impose fines as part of the punishment. The amount of the fine can vary based on the seriousness of the offence and the financial resources of the convicted individual or organisation.