NACF members support the work of the National Crime Agency: Multi-agency campaign on labour exploitation in the construction sector

Construction is one of the UK’s largest and most important economic sectors, employing an estimated 2.2 million workers with many born outside of the UK, particularly those operating in London.

Last year, the Modern Slavery and Exploitation Helpline reported 1,046 labour exploitation cases, an increase of 134% from the previous year, with construction in the top 3 industries for referrals.

Multi-agency work is being undertaken by the NCA, labour market enforcement bodies and police forces nationally, and aims to increase understanding of where risk exists within the UK construction sector, so that we can work together to tackle this threat.

Recognising that both the public sector and the construction industry have a duty to be alert to the risk of exploitation, the NACF and our members are taking an active role in supporting a major national awareness campaign, focusing on identifying and safeguarding construction workers who may be in situations of exploitative working conditions.

Common commercial practices in our sector can create vulnerabilities where criminality can thrive. A key area prone to exploitation is the wide-spread use of sub-contracting, often through complex, multi-tiered indirect labour arrangements. This obscures visibility within the lower levels of the supply chain, and in combination with critical worker shortages intensified by the Covid-19 pandemic, changing immigration rules, and lapses in security and vetting, criminals are increasingly targeting and infiltrating the supply chains of national and international firms.