Creating a 'Forced Labour Monitoring Group'

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: Geography


The ESRC ‘Follow-On’ grant entitled ‘Creating a Forced Labour Monitoring Group (FLMG)’ follows-on from two reports by the Principal Investigator (Dr Sam Scott) for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. These looked at ‘Experiences of Forced Labour in the UK Food Industry’ and the ‘Scope of Forced Labour in the UK’ (see:

The mission statement for the FLMG is: “to help define, measure, monitor and tackle workplace abuse, exploitation and forced labour in the UK”. At present the FLMG is only a ‘pilot’ project with its exact role, remit and membership open for discussion. The 12-month grant (September 2012 - September 2013) is being coordinated by an academic steering group of: Dr Sam Scott, Dr Alex Balch, Professor Gary Craig, Dr Alistair Geddes and Dr Kendra Strauss. There are five outputs associated with the pilot project:

  1. a web-site ‘’

  2. five policy workshops

  3. a book on ‘Workplace Abuse, Exploitation and Forced Labour’

  4. academic journal articles

  5. a collaborative policy paper.

These outputs are designed to act as an impetus for a longer-term FLMG that would:

  • draw academics together with policy makers and practitioners

  • be sustainable

  • be independent

  • influence policy

  • raise knowledge and awareness of forced labour.


Planned Impact

The research is expressly designed with the welfare of abused and exploited workers in mind. Specifically, we note the current inactivity (since May 2010) of the 'Fair Employment Enforcement Board' and the proposed changes to workplace regulation (Davey Review), Legal Aid, and the Employment Tribunal systems. This highly dynamic policy context makes the establishment of an independent monitoring group - that places the welfare of vulnerable, often agency and/ or migrant workers, at the fore - even more pressing. Moreover, it is surprising given the recent work of the TUC (via its 2008 Commission on Vulnerable Employment), BIS and CAB (via the 2008 Vulnerable Worker Enforcement Forum), the Equality and Human Rights Commission (via the 2010 Inquiry in the Meat and Poultry Processing Sectors) and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (via the 2010 Forced Labour research programme) that such a group does not already exist.

As well as being focused on the welfare of workers, the Forced Labour Monitoring Group (FLMG) would support the work of the third sector - most notably the CAB, Unions, Anti-Slavery International, and the Migrants Rights Network - as they seek to tackle and reduce workplace exploitation and abuse in the UK. Alongside this, corporate social responsibility (CSR) is now a priority of the major transnational corporations in the UK and the FLMG would dovetail with this CSR agenda.

Overall, we expect that the 12-month project to create a platform upon which a more permanent multi-stakeholder umbrella network could be established. In other words, we see the FLMG as a pilot project that could be taken forward in one of two ways: either as a wholly independent monitoring group operating by stakeholder consensus; or, as a policy network embedded within the Parliamentary system. In terms of the latter, an All-Party Parliamentary Group on Forced Labour could be a longer-term outcome of the FLMG, or, the Departmentally-embedded 'Fair Employment Enforcement Board' model could be revived.

Finally, debate and discussion around forced labour is still in its infancy. The academically-orientated journal papers on forced labour, based around the five workshop themes, allied with the policy-orientated 'Forced Labour in the UK' book (as part of the Policy Press 'Social Harm' series) would address this issue. The impact of the pilot FLMG would therefore be assured irrespective of whether or not stakeholders decided to take it forward beyond the 12-month funding period.


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Related Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Award Value
ES/J020567/1 03/09/2012 02/09/2013 £88,640
ES/J020567/2 Transfer ES/J020567/1 03/09/2013 30/04/2014 £25,261