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Stamping out slavery in our industry

""The team at Willmott Dixon has recently secured funding from CITB to develop training videos that will help guide companies on employees’ Right to Work checks and ultimately help put a stop to modern slavery.

Helen White, who works at Willmott Dixon as the Group HR Policy and Projects Manager, talks here about the project and why it is so important.

Identifying the issue

I’ve worked at Willmott Dixon for ten years, in a few different HR roles including a role in recruitment. At Willmott Dixon, we always make sure that as part of the recruitment process, we thoroughly check that all our staff have the right to work within the UK before they start work.

This legal requirement not only prevents illegal working and minimises the risk of accidents on site, it also helps put a stop to modern slavery in the industry.

According to the Home Office, 53 people working in construction were referred to authorities as potential victims of human trafficking in 2013. But considering the hidden nature of slavery, the actual numbers are likely to be much higher.

Last year we became aware of Operation Magnify, where the Home Office increased spot checks on construction sites in order to prevent illegal working and, in turn, modern slavery.

While we were confident in our own checks, we wondered what checks and processes our supply chain had in place and how we could support them and promote best practice.

We started to think about the potential scale of the issue and thought video would be the best, most accessible platform to raise awareness among the construction industry as a whole.

Applying for funding

We applied for funding via CITB’s Flexible fund and the team were there to guide us through the application process and provide assistance.

From the outset, CITB were really enthusiastic about the project and could see its potential impact – we estimate that around 1000 construction firms could benefit.

My vision for the project

We are now in the process of collating the content but the idea is to make two separate videos. The first will be a general overview of the issue of illegal working and modern slavery in UK construction, the legislation around it and what is expected of businesses to put a stop to it.

The second will be more of a ‘how to’ video which will demonstrate how employers can complete Right to Work checks and what to look out for, to ensure none of their workers are being forced to work.  

My main hope is that the relevance and accessibility of the videos will encourage smaller employers and their staff to undertake this training and that in turn, the entire industry’s ‘Right to Work’ knowledge grows.

If we work together on this we will reinforce the industry’s positive image as one that provides a safe place of work and protects workers from modern slavery.  

About the author

Helen White is Group HR Policy and Projects Manager at Willmott Dixon.

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