Despite the UK government’s commitments to tackling modern slavery and the International Labour Organization stating that no recruitment fees or related costs should be charged to, or otherwise borne by, workers or jobseekers, workers often have to take out loans at high-interest rates or sign over assets and property to pay these fees and costs. This leaves the workers open to a high risk of debt bondage, one of the key indicators of forced labour.
We believe that forced labour in any sector, in any workplace is unacceptable and as such have signed an investor statement prepared by the Find It, Fix It, Prevent It investor collaboration.
This investor statement is about the UK Seasonal Workers Scheme and the concerns that migrants from Nepal, Indonesia have been left thousands of pounds in debt after they have been sent home weeks after arriving.
As signatories, we, therefore, commit to calling on retailers and firms in and directly sourcing from the UK agricultural supply chain to:
- Undertake an independent investigation on the scale of recruitment fees and related costs that have been made by workers recruited through the Seasonal Workers Scheme.
- Implement the Employer Pays Principle and ensure ethical or responsible recruitment in their own businesses and supply chains.
- Work with suppliers and all businesses in the UK agricultural supply chain to agree and implement a fair process to repay Seasonal Workers Scheme workers’ recruitment fees and related costs.
- Encourage the government to bring the Seasonal Workers Scheme in line with international commitments such as Principles for Tackling Modern Slavery in Supply Chains and the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration so as to reduce risks of exploitation and forced labour.
This statement sends a strong message that as investors we won’t stand by whilst vulnerable workers are being exploited right here in the UK.