Modern Slavery Bill

Written evidence submitted by Homeworkers Worldwide (MS 21)

Homeworkers Worldwide


1. Homeworkers Worldwide (HWW) is a UK-based NGO that exists to support homeworker organisations around the world. We work with homeworkers who are organising for visibility, recognition, and to improve their working and living conditions.

2. In recent years HWW has expanded our work to include other informal women workers, including young women working in the garment and textiles mills of Tamil Nadu, South India. It is this work in particular, where young women and girls are held in conditions of forced and bonded labour, that informs our comments on the Modern Slavery Bill.

Modern Slavery Bill Comments

Supply chains

3. HWW welcomes the Bill, and the work being done to tackle slavery in the UK. However we regret that the Bill does not incorporate a commitment to addressing slavery elsewhere in the world, where it is linked to UK companies. We support the view that, for the UK to lead the global fight against modern slavery, British companies who are found to have slave labour in their supply chains must be held legally accountable.

4. We have been working with young women and girls in textile and garment factories in Tamil Nadu since 2011. These factories produce jersey garments (T-shirts, leggings, pyjamas etc) for export and they supply some of the biggest clothing retailers in the UK. Many of the young women and girls work in conditions of forced and bonded labour (forms of modern slavery). They live on-site in hostels, where food and living conditions are inadequate and they have no freedom of movement. They are denied permission to leave the hostels and are unable to refuse excessive overtime (working 12+ hours is common.) Many of these workers are under 18 years of age, some below 14 years.

5. We would like to see amendments to the Modern Slavery Bill to ensure British companies are compelled to take steps to eradicate slavery throughout their supply chains – within the UK and beyond. Voluntary approaches have been tried, with some positive results, but on matters of such fundamental human rights we believe all British companies should be held to a common standard, ensuring a level playing field for all.

Domestic workers

6. In addition, we would like to add our support to the many voices calling for the government to reverse the changes to Overseas Domestic Worker Visas. This is a modest but essential step to help protect overseas domestic workers from slavery and abuse, and would better enable the Modern Slavery Bill to fulfil its purpose.

September 2014

Prepared 17th September 2014