The recent arrests of illegal nail salon workers put modern slavery laws in the spotlight. David Wright explains the law and what salon owners are required to do
Modern slavery may not be a term you’re familiar with but it’s an important one to be aware of for anyone working in the salon industry. If you’re likely to recruit staff this year, it’s essential you know the requirements the Government puts on all employers to avoid recruiting illegal workers. It’s easy to think it doesn’t affect you in your small salon, or that it only applies to inner cities, but that’s not the case.
At the end of March 2015, the Modern Slavery Act came into force, with the aim of stopping illegal use of labour in the UK. It isn’t just about trafficking sex workers. You probably read that 97 workers were arrested in December 2016 during raids on nail bars.
Businesses with a turnover of £36 million or more have to make commitments that they don’t have any involvement with modern slavery but, most significantly, they have to check that their supply chain is also compliant. So, indirectly, it can affect even micro-businesses. Large businesses and their suppliers are required to produce a slavery and human trafficking statement, to include:
• A brief description of the organisation’s business model and supply chain relationships
• Policies relating to modern slavery, including due diligence and auditing processes implemented • Training provided to those in both supply chain management and the rest of the organisation
• How the organisation evaluates and manages the principal risks related to modern slavery in their organisation and supply chain
• Relevant key performance indicators to help the reader of the statement assess its effectiveness.
If you fit anywhere in a supply chain for a larger organisation – for example, by providing services in-house for a hotel or corporation – you in turn are likely to be asked for your statement.
A key part of the attack on modern slavery is the checks employers must carry out to confirm their staff have a legal right to work in the UK. The Government has invested heavily in enforcing this legislation but there is protection for salon owners if they ensure they always carry out “right to work in the UK” checks for all new appointees, not just those they are suspicious about.
The first conviction
Six Lithuanians brought a case seeking compensation after being exploited by a Kent-based firm that employed them. The men frequently worked on farms that produce eggs for a leading supplier to major supermarkets.
The workers described being forced to work back-toback eight-hour shifts for days at a time, and being denied sleep and toilet breaks. It was discovered they weren’t paid the minimum wage. It’s easy to see that someone who doesn’t have the right to work in the UK is vulnerable to exploitation and the recent series of nail bar raids shows the extent to which it is happening.
As part of your recruitment process, you should check the right to work of all applicants. You should obtain copies of two documents from a list provided under the legislation. It’s easier to check everyone rather than guess who you think might need a work visa. You can download a copy of the right to work checklist free from Gov.uk. If you’re found to be employing someone without a right to work in the UK, the fine is up to £20,000 per employee.
In December, 280 nail bars in Edinburgh, London and Cardiff were targeted by Government inspectors and 97 people were held from Vietnam, Mongolia, Ghana, China, Nigeria, Pakistan and India. 14 of these are now seen as potential victims of modern slavery and 68 businesses have been advised that they will be fined £20,000 per illegal worker if they cannot prove that they carried out appropriate document checks.
Ignorance of the law or lack of evidence – for example, “I saw their passport but didn’t take a copy” – isn’t seen as an excuse. It’s time to review your recruitment processes. You should also ensure agency workers have been checked if you ever use their services.
David Wright is a consultant in all aspects of employment practice and law. He is the main employment law consultant for Habia and provides a personalised support service for UK salons. Tel: 01522 831061 www.davidwrightpersonnel.co.uk