Modern Slavery

It’s estimated that there are 40.3 million people living in modern slavery worldwide – 136,000 of these in the UK.  At Network Rail we’re committed to doing business in a sustainable and responsible way. This includes a commitment to do all that we reasonably can to prevent all forms of modern slavery in our supply chain and in any part of our own business, and we expect our customers and suppliers to do the same.

Our anti-slavery and human trafficking policy is available to view via attachments section on this page.

Under the UK Modern Slavery Act, Network Rail must produce an annual statement detailing the steps we’re taking to prevent modern slavery taking place, in any part of our business, and our supply chains. Our latest statement is available to view from the homepage of

If you’d like to learn more about modern slavery or discuss modern slavery in your team, take a look at our modern slavery Toolbox Talk and Safety Hour discussion pack, which can be found in the attachments section on the right-hand side of this page.

What is modern slavery?

Modern slavery is the illegal exploitation of people for personal or commercial gain. It takes various forms and can include forced employment, sexual or criminal exploitation or domestic servitude. Through threats, violence or coercion, victims of modern slavery may:

  • suffer unacceptably low pay, or no pay at all
  • have excessive wage deductions imposed on them in the form of debts that cannot realistically be paid back
  • be subject to poor working conditions
  • be subject to humiliation or ill-treatment
  • be housed in squalid accommodation
  • have their identity documents taken away from them.

Worker exploitation can take many different forms including:

  • Human trafficking – the movement or recruitment of people by means of threat, force or coercion, for the purpose of exploitation
  • Forced labour – where a person is made to work against their will, due to fear of punishment
  • Rogue landlords – landlords who house people in overcrowded and unsafe properties, often using the threat of eviction or other means of intimidation
  • Work-finding fees – where someone has to pay to obtain a job. In the UK, this is illegal.

It’s important to remember that it’s often difficult for victims of modern slavery to speak out about or leave their situation, because they may:

  • be threatened with violence or sexual assault
  • have had their identity documents (such as their passport) taken away from them
  • be in debt, or have their bank accounts controlled by those controlling them
  • think their situation is normal, ‘better than nothing’ or better than any other alternative.

The warning signs to look out for

There are some tell-tale signs that could indicate that something is wrong. This could include:

  • Workers who don’t have written contracts of employment
  • Workers who have had to pay fees to obtain work
  • Workers who aren’t able to prove they are legally entitled to work in the UK
  • Workers showing signs of physical abuse and/or appear malnourished or unkempt
  • Workers who seem to have few personal possessions or often wear the same clothes
  • Workers who appear frightened or reluctant to talk to others
  • Workers who are dropped off or collected for work by the same person regularly, either very early or very late at night
  • A large number of people working for you listed as living at the same address may indicate high shared occupancy – often a factor for those being exploited
  • Agencies charging suspiciously low rates against standard industry pricing.

Who’s at risk?

Anyone can be a victim of modern slavery – male or female, adults or children, British citizens or those from outside the UK.

Those at highest risk are migrant workers often with limited English language speaking skills. They may not understand their rights and how to enforce them which can result in individuals settling for what they think is normal or a ‘better than nothing’ situation.

Victims of modern slavery can be controlled by individuals or by gangs who threaten them with violence, debt, sexual assault or who withhold documents such as passports and ID. They may also control victim’s bank accounts.

What should I do if I suspect modern slavery taking place within Network Rail?

We all have a responsibility to speak out about concerns relating to human rights violations or acts of modern slavery. This includes raising concerns about those we do business with, or those who do business on our behalf.

If you’re concerned that an employee, or someone working on our behalf could be a victim of modern slavery, you must report it using our Speak Out service. If you’re worried that the individual is in immediate danger, you should phone 999.

For more information on speaking out, take a look at our Speak Out (whistleblowing) policy or view the Speak Out section on our ethics page .

For more information…

Stronger Together:

The Stronger Together campaign is a multi-industry initiative that aims to reduce modern slavery in UK business. There are some resources within the attachments section on the right hand side of this page that you can use in team briefings or to simply increase your own knowledge and awareness of modern slavery.

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