It is estimated that there are currently 40.3 million people trapped in modern slavery worldwide. According to a recent study there are over 1 million victims of modern slavery in the European hospitality sector with over 4,500 people being in forced labour in hotels. Hotels have both legal and ethical obligations to prevent modern slavery in their business and supply chain.

The hotel industry faces particular risk of modern slavery because:

  • Hotels frequently rely on agencies to employ outsourced housekeeping and cleaning staff. Multi-tier recruitment systems can mean that it is difficult to detect if an unscrupulous agency is supplying staff who are victims of bonded or forced labour.
  • Victims (adults and children) may be forced to provide commercial sex to traffickers in hotels because of the privacy that hotels offer.
  • Complex supply chains can mean that goods and services purchased by hotels may have been produced by forced or bonded labour or labour exploitation.

Modern Slavery Statement

The Modern Slavery Act was introduced with the intention of achieving greater transparency in business and heightened corporate responsibility. The Regulations oblige businesses incorporated in or carrying on business in the UK, supplying businesses or services, and with a turnover of more than £36m to publish an annual statement setting out the steps they have taken to ensure there is no slavery in their business or supply chain. If no steps have been taken then a statement to that effect can be made. Businesses are expected to improve on their statements over time.

A failure to comply with this obligation can lead to the Secretary of State applying for an injunction which, if not complied with, is punishable with an unlimited fine. Perhaps a greater sanction will be the adverse publicity and fall in investor confidence which will result from a failure to investigate and tackle this issue and publish an annual statement.

The legal obligation to prevent modern slavery

There is currently no corporate offence of failing to prevent modern slavery and human trafficking. It is probably more relevant to consider the adverse publicity that may result if you fail to adopt ethical business practices. Consider also how your business, particularly those at the top, will be held to account in other ways if you are found to be facilitating modern slavery or human trafficking in your hotel.

Ethical business practices

The Shiva Foundation is working closely with hotels to tackle and prevent human trafficking. It is encouraging hotels to set up processes to address the issue of modern slavery in their business and supply chains. It encourages staff education and training and the regular monitoring of policies to ensure effectiveness. Its documentation sets out many signs of human trafficking which staff should be trained to look out for. We set out some potential indicators below.

Hotel Usage

Staff should be aware of some of the signs that might indicate an issue – for example:
• An odd request for a room by a fire escape;
• Payment in cash with limited ID;
• Young people with boyfriends/girlfriends who seem much older;
• Behaviour of one guest very submissive or subdued;
• Lack of luggage;
• String of men arrive throughout the night to visit one room and stay for a short time only;
• Group of girls arrive saying they are waiting for a man to join them – they may be prostitutes, but are victims not criminals.


• Legal documents evidencing right to work are not produced in the required timescale;
• Fake CV and references;
• No personal bank account or shares an account with other staff members;
• Individual who is very withdrawn and does not socialise with other members of staff;
• Individual is always dropped off for work and picked up from the same place;
• Individual appears malnourished or unkempt.

Practical steps

If evidence of potential human trafficking is gathered, staff should record incidents in a log and alert the manager responsible for anti-trafficking. They should deal with the matter in accordance with the hotel’s policy which may include calling police and safeguarding the individual concerned. Management should commend staff who report a concern and ensure that they are provided with the support they need following an incident.

Further Reading

The Shiva Foundation has produced a useful toolkit including a number of resources, which can be found HERE



The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the present time and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.