A new Farm Work Welfare app will see thousands of farmers and workers across the UK benefit from ‘valuable’ support and information in a bid to tackle labour exploitation.
It comes after the extent of labour exploitation in agriculture was laid bare in a 2019 report by the University of Nottingham’s Rights Lab, which revealed companies were failing to produce Modern Slavery Statements required to eradicate modern slavery from its business and supply chains.
The app itself has been designed by the Clewer Initiative in partnership with the GLAA, the National Crime Agency, the NFU, the Church Commissioners for England and fresh produce supplier the Fresca, as well as the Modern Slavery Helpline.
Due to the industry’s reliance on recruitment agencies, which sees 98 per cent of seasonal labour coming from outside the UK, farmers will therefore be able to access practical information on licensed labour providers and document verification.
The app will also provide insight on the employment rights of workers in eight languages.
Former farmer and chairman of the Efra select committee Neil Parish said: “Unfortunately, criminal exploitation happens in this sector, with people being trafficked and forced into work for little or no money.
“It is very hard to spot and often workers do not know their rights but this new app will really help both rural employers and employees spot and prevent labour exploitation in this sector and catch criminals involved in this trade.”
Efforts to tackle the issue have accelerated after the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) and Justice and Care recently estimated there were about 100,000 victims of sector-wide modern slavery spread across the UK.
And with 10,000 to 13,000 cases recorded for agriculture alone, the news follows just weeks after the arrest of six people for human trafficking, which found suspected victims of modern slavery living in a farm building in Bedfordshire.
Bishop Alastair Redfern, who chairs the Clewer Initiative, highlighted the victims of modern slavery were often kept by highly organised, criminal gangs in remote locations.
“These gangs pose as legitimate labour providers offering a ready supply of workers to farmers and growers who may not always spot the signs of exploitation,” he added.
“That is why we have developed the Farm Work Welfare App, as we want to provide a resource for both farm businesses and workers to help them navigate the challenges of seasonal worker recruitment and thwart the criminal networks.”
The information gathered will be processed by the Modern Slavery Helpline and help identify hot spots, enable criminal investigations and support victims.