Target exploitative employers says forced labour report


An increased focus by government on tackling exploitative employers and bridging visas for victims are two of the key recommendations of a newly-published paper into forced labour.

Written by academics from the universities of Salford and Leeds and commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 'Forced labour and UK immigration policy: status matters?' draws on recent research and interviews with experts at bodies including the TUC, Gangmasters Licensing Authority and International Labour Organisation, and investigates the links between immigration status and vulnerability to forced labour and the impact of immigration policy on forced labour levels in the UK.

The paper suggests that the complex system of immigration status and immigration policy can make some migrants more susceptible to exploitative labour and that, in some cases, migrants can find themselves coerced into forced labour, despite being legally entitled to work in the UK, due to confusion over their status and lack of access to information.

The paper's lead author Peter Dwyer, Professor of Social Policy at The University of Salford, said: "Anti-Slavery Day today is highlighting the widespread variety of experiences of forced labour faced by too many people. In this report we show that the complexity of potential immigration status and the ways that defines migrants' rights to live, work, and access support in the UK can limit the opportunities available to them and make them more likely to face exploitation by unscrupulous employers."

"One way in which the focus could be shifted to tackling unscrupulous employers would be to allow immigrants of any status to take their complaint to an employment tribunal," co-author Dr Louise Waite from the University of Leeds added. "We should also look at ways of improving migrants' access to information so they can better understand their rights and hopefully protect themselves against exploitation."

The paper forms part of a larger Joseph Rowntree Foundation programme on forced labour with further papers to be issued in coming months.

For further information:

Please contact the University of Leeds Press Office on +44 (0)113 343 4031 or email

Notes to editors:

  • The Joseph Rowntree Foundation programme paper Forced labour and UK immigration policy: status matters? was written by Peter Dwyer, Professor of Social Policy, and Lisa Scullion, Research Fellow, at The University of Salford, and Hannah Lewis, Research Fellow, and Louise Waite, Lecturer in Human Geography, at The University of Leeds.
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