Construction leaders urged to ‘act fast’ if they spot worker exploitation

By Raspberry Jim,

Welsh construction companies are being urged to “act immediately” if they fear they are linked to modern slavery through their supply chains.

A leading Cardiff lawyer is calling on managers and leaders throughout the industry to be aware of exploitation of workers hired through third-party contracts.

It is claimed that the industry could be particularly vulnerable to this form of exploitation as a result of its reliance on contracted workers, cost-driven suppliers, and employees from socially deprived backgrounds.
This comes as figures from the National Crime Agency revealed there were 123 modern slavery referrals to the National Referral Mechanism in Wales in 2016. Just under half of these, 53, were in relation to labour exploitation, the statistics revealed.

Rhiannon Evans, a Legal Executive at Blackfords LLP, said construction managers and leaders should remain vigilant to exploitation to avoid being implicated themselves.

She said: “The construction sector is frequently recognised among the most prevalent for worker exploitation, as a result of the global trend towards outsourcing within the industry and its dependence on third-party contractors, who could be supplied from a number of different sources.

“While the vast majority would never knowingly partake in any exploitation, this potential lack of knowledge surrounding employee circumstances and conditions may not be a strong enough defence, so employers cannot afford to turn a blind eye to this.

“Employers who have hired in a victim of modern slavery, could be implicated in the offence themselves, which could have serious consequences for themselves and their business. Even in situations where a potential victim appears to consent or acquiesce to their treatment or conditions, this does not necessarily mean they are acting under their own free will.

“If there is any suspicion at all that you or your company are somehow involved in worker exploitation through a supply chain, act immediately and notify the authorities.

“In doing so you are creating a fairer, more equal working environment, not just for your business, but across the industry as a whole.”

The Welsh Government has this year introduced the Code of Practice for Ethical Employment in Supply Chains, in a bid to end the pattern of exploitation through third-party contractors.

The guidelines aim to create more transparency surrounding contracted workers to prevent this frequent method of exploitation.

Miss Evans said: “These guidelines will provide more clarity for businesses on what constitutes modern slavery and how it can be prevented.

“Not only will it help to curb this practice, it will also protect managers across the industry, by providing them with the tools they need to protect themselves against becoming inadvertently involved in exploitation.”

Blackfords is highly experienced in modern slavery cases across the UK. The firm, which specialises in defending complex criminal cases across Wales and England, is currently acting for a Welsh family and several others who have been accused of modern slavery offences through labour exploitation.

Miss Evans said: “We have seen a number of cases of exploitation through labour, with many across the construction industry. However, managers in the sector should not feel they must stop using contractors for fear of implicating themselves in an offence. Rather, they can continue to use legal third-party contractors, but we would just urge them to be vigilant of any warning signs.”

Miss Evans offered top tips to construction industry managers to be aware of, including:

  • Workers without identification documents.
  • Very low paid workers, or those who are not paid at all.
    Food or water deprivation, and lack of medical care.
  • Limited or no social interaction with colleagues or others.
  • Distrustful of authorities and/or afraid of revealing their immigration status.

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Crash for cash conviction rise leads to ‘increasingly complex’ scams

By Raspberry Jim,

Desperate crash for cash scammers are making schemes increasingly complex following court appearances by over 150 people for these offences in Wales, a leading Cardiff solicitor has warned.

Criminal lawyer Phillip Williams of leading firm Blackfords LLP said the number of people facing prosecution for these offences over the past year has resulted in a worrying trend emerging across Wales.
He claimed that up to four scam artists are now targeting any one victim, to make the fake crash appear more legitimate and increase the likelihood of receiving a successful insurance pay out.

Mr Williams, who heads the firm’s Cardiff office and specialises in complex fraud and criminal cases, said criminals are now being forced to make their scams appear more realistic due to insurers clamping down on fraudulent claims.

This comes after more than 150 people have appeared in courts across Wales since January last year. In January 2016, 81 people were sentenced in a significant £760,000 scam involving a Blackwood garage. And 73 people have also appeared in court this year in relation to alleged offences.

Mr Williams said with prosecutions such as these becoming more frequent criminal schemes are becoming more intricate.

He said: “We have seen major convictions in Wales in relation to these types of offences over the past year, which will undoubtedly help to clamp down on crash for cash schemes.

“However, rather than deterring criminals, we are definitely seeing a trend where this type of scheme is becoming even more in depth, and has moved on beyond one car crashing into another.

“It is now becoming far more complex. You now see maybe two drivers involved in hitting the victim’s car, then a local garage could be involved, and even in some extreme cases a solicitor too.

“This issue has really come to the forefront lately as insurance companies have taken a harsher stance on bogus claims. We have also seen an increase in prosecutions as the law aims to prevent the spread of these scams.

“Going forwards these increased measures by insurers and the courts could help to deter potential criminals looking to benefit from this type of scam. Ultimately this will be good news for law-abiding drivers, helping to reduce the number of those affected by these scams, and prevent insurance premiums from being adversely affected.”

 

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