On this day in 1619, twenty or so Angolans, kidnapped by the Portuguese, arrived in the British colony of Virginia and were then bought by English colonists for a life of slavery.
The arrival of the enslaved Africans in the New World marked the beginning of two and a half centuries of slavery in North America.
The arrivals were technically sold as indentured servants. Indentured servants agreed, or in many cases were forced, to work with no pay for a set amount of time. This was often to pay off a debt. They could legally expect to become free at the end of the contract. Many Europeans who arrived in the Americas came as indentured servants. Records indicate that some of them did eventually obtain their freedom but it is clear that the Africans arriving at Point Comfort in 1619 were forced into servitude and that they fit the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ definition of enslaved peoples.
With fewer white indentured servants arriving from England, a racial caste system developed. African servants were increasingly held for life. In 1662, a Virginia court ruled that children born to enslaved mothers were the property of the mother’s owner.
What is modern slavery?
Modern slavery is a plain English term. … Different countries use different legal terminologies, but “modern slavery” includes the crimes of human trafficking, slavery and slavery like practices such as servitude, forced labour, forced or servile marriage, the sale and exploitation of children, and debt bondage.
The term ‘modern slavery’ for the purposes of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 encompasses the following definitions:
- ‘slavery’ is where ownership is exercised over a person
- ‘servitude’ involves the obligation to provide services imposed by coercion
- ‘forced or compulsory labour’ involves work or service extracted from any person under the menace of a penalty and for which the person has not offered himself voluntarily
- ‘human trafficking’ concerns arranging or facilitating the travel of another with a view to exploiting them.
Do we have slavery in the UK?
Modern slavery in the UK is thriving. The British Government estimates that tens of thousands of people are in modern slavery in the UK today.
Most people are trafficked into the UK from overseas, but there is also a significant number of British nationals in slavery.
Most commonly people are trafficked into forced labour in industries such as agriculture, construction, hospitality, manufacturing and car washes. Many women and girls are trafficked for sexual exploitation or domestic slavery.
Others, particularly children, are forced into crime such as cannabis production, petty theft or begging.
Ensure you are following employment laws
Your business needs to have up to date policies on:
- Whistleblowing Policy: This should be to encourage employees, clients and business partners to report any concerns and ensure your employees feel comfortable raising concerns without fear of repercussion.
- Recruitment: All companies should have a strict recruitment policy that checks the eligibility of workers for UK employment.
- Employee or Company Code of conduct: This should detail the standards you expect your organisation, employees and suppliers to meet.
- Equality and diversity: Ensuring that everyone has access to the same opportunities and the same, fair treatment
- Corporate Social Responsibility Policy: This policy should summarise how you manage environmental impacts and how you work responsibly with suppliers and local communities
How can we help?
If you are an employer and in doubt as to whether your policies cover anti slavery legislation get in touch with our Employment Department for advice.