UK hotels are failing to address the risks of modern slavery in their operations and supply chains.
A report published this week by human rights group Walk Free was highly critical of the hotel sector for failing to comply with the terms of the Modern Slavery Act 2015, which requires companies with a turnover of more than £36m to release annual statements on their anti-slavery efforts.
The findings showed that there was "a disappointing lack of effort to protect against labour and sexual exploitation".
The Beyond compliance in the hotel sector report said: "the failures can be explained by a lack of commitment by hotel companies to prioritise the elimination of modern slavery", while the weakness of the legislation "fails to hold companies to account".
The report was compiled following a study of the statements from 71 hotel companies under the Modern Slavery Act. Only 14% reported specific approaches to dealing with the risk of sexual exploitation in their operations and supply chains, while 76% did not disclose supply chain information.
According to the report, the high risk of exploitation in the hotel sector stems from a vulnerable workforce, complex supply chains with little transparency and extensive franchising. "In the franchising model, hotel brands lend their name and customer care standards to third parties, but usually stipulate far less about the standards they expect for the employment of workers."
In conclusion, the report calls on the government to do more to enforce the Modern Slavery Act against companies that do not comply with taking steps to preventing labour and sexual exploitation.
Kate Nicholls, chief execuive of UKHospitality, said: "The hotel sector and wider hospitality industry takes this issue very seriously and recognise it's an issue of fundamental importance. UKHospitality is being proactive in developing measures to combat modern slavery, working with the Metropolitan police, the SHIVA Foundation and others on sharing best practice and guidance that helps staff identify the tell-tale signs and how to respond. While this report shows there is more to do, our members are committed to protecting the safety and wellbeing of all employees."
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