Is this Working? Labour Exploitation in the UK Workforce Banner Image Is this Working? Labour Exploitation in the UK Workforce Banner Image

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Is this Working?

Right now, thousands of people in the UK are working in inhumane conditions, being exploited for their labour.

Labour exploitation can take many forms; some are obvious and brutal. Others are insidious and manipulative. Abusers can steal wages from their "employees", force them into unsanitary living conditions, and withold important personal documents for leverage over their victims. Through circumstance of just a run of bad luck, anyone can be vulnerable to labour exploitation. Even people you might know.

People Like Ali*.

Ali's Story

Ali* had worked in construction for 8 years all around Europe after leaving his home country.

He came to England for work, but following the breakdown of his marriage he experienced a mental health episode that resulted in him going to hospital.

“I went back to work but I fell asleep on a train and someone stole my bag with all my documents in. Without them I could only do cash in hand construction work until I could get the money together to get new papers”. 

A co-worker introduced him to his exploiter, as he thought he could provide Ali more of the work opportunities he desperately needed.

Although they had an initial agreement that Ali would work between 8am and 5pm, for £100 a day, this was never put in writing in a contract. Instead, Ali and other victims were made to start work at 5am for up to 14 hours a day.

“We were told no breaks were allowed and were rushed when we ate as we were not supposed to stop working.  We were also made to work all weekend, every week”. 

The exploiter also used the fact that the client had lost all his documents against him and brought it up often to keep him working.

The exploiter was verbally abusive towards the workers and became more aggressive with time. Ali recalls an incident where the exploiter – upset that by the end of the day a project was not completed – tried to hit him.

“He hit me again on the day that I left.  Punched me in the left side of the ribs several times.  I was hurting in so many ways”.

Ali slept rough for a couple of days until he found a local charity, where he ended up charging his phone before going to police. His exploiter ended up locating him when his phone came back on and turned up at the charity shortly after – highlighting the sense of unsafety that Ali was going through at the time.

This is why we at Medaille are so careful to keep our survivors safe. 

Ali is now safely residing in one of our safe houses. But his story is all too common. We rely on donations from people such as you to assist our clients on their journey to recovery.

This Labour Day May 1st, we're drawing attention towards the suffering of workers trapped in situations of Labour Exploitation. Help us make sure they don't spend another year trapped in abusive and damaging situations.

How you can Help

With your support, we can ensure that survivors of labour exploitation get the support they desperately need, We can help them understand that their work has value, their lives have value. 

You can help support people like Ali on their journey to recovery with a donation today.


£10 – could provide our service users with a welcome pack for when they first arrive at a safe house.

£25 – could go towards a workshop for survivors to help them build their confidence and self-esteem.

£50 – could pay for translation costs so non-English speaking service users receive the support they need in a language they understand.

Make an online donation today


*Names in this story have been changed to protect the identities of the people we work with.


Is this Working?: Interview with Naomi Mumba-Dobson


We met with Medaille Trust Service Manager Naomi Mumba-Dobson to discuss her personal experience in dealing with victims of labour exploitation, the devestating impacts it has on victims, and the important signs to watch out for.