Law and policy development

UK law & policy

Since 2013, FLEX has been deeply engaged in advocacy on the development of the UK’s anti-trafficking and labour inspection law and policy, including the Modern Slavery Act (2015) and the Immigration Act (2016)

As the Modern Slavery Act proceeded through the UK Houses of Parliament, FLEX engaged at every step of the way. This included delivering written and oral evidence to the ‘Joint pre-legislative committee on the Modern Slavery Bill’ and engaging with members of parliament throughout the passage of the Bill. FLEX called for the Modern Slavery Act to include measures to prevent trafficking and forced labour abuses and to protect victims of trafficking. Some of our key successes included:

·      Commitment from the Government to conducting a consultation on the future role of the GLA; this resulted in the expansion of the GLA’s remit

·      Inclusion in the Act of the ‘Transparency in Supply Chains’ clause which requires businesses with a turnover of more than £36 million to report on what they are doing to address modern slavery in their supply chains

In 2016 the UK government sought to reform the labour inspection system to address the most severe cases of exploitation rather than general labour market compliance through measures set out in the Immigration Bill. During the development of the Bill, FLEX led efforts to influence Part One, asking that labour inspection be conducted for the protection of vulnerable workers and that the UK labour inspection agencies be adequately resourced to monitor and enforce labour laws, in order to prevent trafficking for labour exploitation. 

FLEX’s written and oral evidence ensured a strong emphasis on the needs of vulnerable and exploited workers as the Bill made its way through Parliament. As the Immigration Act 2016 was passed into law, FLEX welcomed the establishment of a new Director of Labour Market Enforcement, but raised concerns about the focus of the role. FLEX continues to call for the new Director to prioritise vulnerable workers and victims of exploitation, and place the protection and rights of vulnerable workers above immigration enforcement concerns.

International policy & advocacy

FLEX’s international advocacy approach reflects a broad response to the issue; drawing on labour rights, migrant rights and women’s rights frameworks to ensure that anti-trafficking obligations are met for all. Through research and dialogue with key stakeholders at local, national and international level, FLEX seeks to:

  • inform and advocate to governments for enforcement of labour standards as a central plank of an effective trafficking response
  • build understandings of the ‘prevention’ obligation in the international trafficking framework  
  • hold governments to account for the full range of rights that apply to victims of trafficking for labour exploitation and advocate for their access to such rights
  • build understanding of what constitutes positive long term outcomes for victims of trafficking and advocate for improved long term support provision

Through our project ‘Pro-active Identification and Support for Victims of Trafficking for Labour Exploitation in the EU’ (Pro-Act), FLEX have worked with partner organisations in the Netherlands and Romania as well as NGOs, lawyers, support providers, law centres, unions and migrant rights organisations from across Europe to develop strategies to improve identification and support of victims of trafficking. These strategies, which have been piloted in three countries, form the basis of joint EU-level advocacy aimed at improving responses to trafficking for labour exploitation both within national contexts and in international law & policy.