How can the healthcare industry address modern slavery? By Helen Carter

With the announcement from the Global Slavery Index this month that the number of victims of modern slavery has increased to 49.6 million people, there is now an increasing awareness that more needs to be done to make effective and lasting change.

Whilst modern slavery contains several crimes, businesses are becoming more tuned into the issue of forced labour which has increased from 16 million to 17.6 million and can be traced back to supply chains.  That figure does not include the state imposed forced labour which sees governments subsidising their own GDP with use of 3.9 million victims.

Source: Walk Free

Within the healthcare sector there are numerous challenges, frontline carers and staff are perfectly placed to identify victims of modern slavery but there are also challenges with the shortage of staff leading to rogue recruitment practices and lack of care in the recruitment process. In addition to this during the Covid crisis it came to light that the government in the UK had given contracts to companies in Malaysia who used child labour to produce PPE products for delivery to the UK during the pandemic.

With these challenges in mind, what should organisations in the healthcare sector do to help combat the issue?

Train frontline staff 

They need to be able to identify the signs and respond accordingly. Carers particularly in A&E departments are trained to spot victims of child abuse, domestic violence, and other societal issues. Modern slavery is being added by some hospitals. Make sure that everyone who is trained to spot the signs knows how to support the victim and get help from the right place.

Use Government Tools and Guidance

There’s useful guidance on avoiding modern slavery within PPE supply chains as well as the Modern Slavery Assessment Tool (MSAT) which can be used to gain greater transparency on your supply chain. The MSAT itself provides a good starting place for information relating to due diligence within any organisation who sells into government organisations. Use this to understand what processes an organisation has in place and start the conversation.

Utilise Procurement Policy Notes 

Within both PPN 06/20 and PPN 05/19 there is provision to include modern slavery requirements in your procurement. Where you have the highest risk products, PPE, temporary carers, nurses, facilities teams etc, ensure that sufficient weighting is given to modern slavery due diligence, wages, and employment conditions in order to understand how your supply chain are treating people who will ultimately provide your services and products.

Invest in supplier relationship management

Take time to properly get to know your supply chain. Where consumables are procured there is a need to understand the price provided and get closer to the suppliers. Develop a strategic relationship with these organisations and if necessary, go and audit them or use existing audits such as Sedex where available to get a greater transparent picture of the issues in the supply chain.  If you are sharing the supply chain with other healthcare organisations, collaborate with them and collectively work to improve conditions to increase your leverage if it does not exist.

Interested in how we can help your organisation with your modern slavery strategy? Get in touch with our expert Helen Carter here.

For more information

Helen Carter
Lead Consultant

Related news articles from the Action Sustainability blog

Lessons learned: Unveiling modern slavery risks in the built environment

This was posted in Modern Slavery & Human Rights

There’s a growing recognition across the UK built environment sector, that slavery and exploitation are everywhere, but we're yet to see this translate into a 'penny drop' moment, argues Senior Consultant EJ Allen.

Read Article

COP28: Key Headlines and Outcomes Explained

This was posted in Modern Slavery & Human Rights

With COP28 now over, Consultant Researcher Will Glover explains the key headlines, agreements, pledges and outcomes from the climate conference.

Read Article

Anti-Slavery Day 2023: How technology is driving modern slavery

This was posted in Modern Slavery & Human Rights

For Anti-Slavery Day 2023, Consultant Researcher Will Glover highlights the crucial issue of how the technology is being used for modern slavery, human trafficking and exploitation across the globe.

Read Article