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Respecting human rights and preventing modern slavery toolbox


Our policies, standards and other resources

We have more in-depth Group policies and standards covering different human rights. 

They are guided by international human rights principles. These have been defined in the International Bill of Human Rights, the International Labour Organization’s Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, the United Nations Global Compact and the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights

Clicking on any of the above links will take you to these important documents, where you can study them further.

In addition, there may be specific policies and procedures that apply where you work. Your manager can tell you about these. If you are unsure then ask your manager.

(Please note: some of our resources are only available to Serco employees. In this case, you’ll need to log in to MySerco to access them. If you have problems accessing them, please request a copy from your manager.) 

Human Rights
One page statement defining Serco’s commitment to respecting human rights.

SMS-GS-BC5 Human Rights
Sets out Serco’s expectations and identifies potential risks so that we understand and respect the human rights of colleagues and those using our services.

Group Procedure - Modern Slavery
Details the process to be followed should any form of modern slavery be suspected in Serco’s operations or suspected in a third party we work with.

SMS-GSOP-BC5-1 Human Rights Decision Tree
Outlines Serco’s approach to identify and assess actual or potential adverse human rights impacts in which we might be involved through our own activities or business relationships.

FBCE18 Modern Slavery Response and Remediation Plan and Guidance
Guidance and plan that tells you what to do if you suspect any form of modern slavery in our operations or through our suppliers.

Manual - Third Party Due Diligence
Processes to be followed to ensure ethical compliance due diligence in the selection and review of third-parties.

Supplier Code of Conduct
Our Serco Supplier Code of Conduct, supplements MyCode, setting forth the standards and practices that apply to all suppliers of Serco.

Modern Slavery Statement
Annual report summarising our approach and progress in compliance with global legislation not limited to the Modern Slavery Acts of the UK and Australia.

Human Rights Supplement
Presents Serco's approach to assessing and managing human rights within our business.


Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, regardless of race, gender, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status. They include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and many more. Everyone is entitled to these rights, without discrimination. They also include the right to fair treatment and respect in the workplace. 

If a company causes or carries out a violation of human rights, that is direct abuse. And if a company is forced into violations because of the laws of the country in which it is operating, that is direct abuse too.

A company can also indirectly violate human rights. This is often referred to as being "complicit in an abuse". It is usually the result of someone in a company's network of business relationships committing abuse, like a supplier, third party - or even a customer.

Adverse human rights impacts happen when something removes or reduces someone’s human rights.

A human rights impact assessment (HRIA) is a process for identifying, understanding, assessing, and addressing the adverse effects of a business project or activities on the human rights of workers and community members.

Modern slavery is an umbrella term, encompassing human trafficking, slavery, servitude and forced labour. Someone is in slavery if they are:

  • Forced to work through mental or physical threat

  • Unpaid or not paid in line with the other workers on site or in line with the local minimum wage

  • Owned or controlled by an ‘employer’ usually through mental or physical abuse or the threat of abuse

  • Dehumanised, treated as a commodity or bought and sold as ‘property’

  • Physically constrained or have restrictions placed on their freedom.

Modern slavery is a serious and brutal crime in which people are treated as commodities and exploited for criminal gain. Modern slavery, in particular human trafficking, is an international problem with victims entering one of the countries in which Serco operates legally, on forged documentation or illegally.

Slavery is the severe exploitation of other people for personal or commercial gain. The slave owner has absolute power over the slave and controls them through the use of violence or threats, or by forcing them into inescapable debt, or by taking away their identity papers and threatening them with deportation if they do not do what they are asked.

Any work done in harsh conditions for low pay may also be slavery.

Human trafficking is when men, women and children are moved and forced into exploitation. The movement could be international but also within the country, from one city to another or even just a few streets. A person is a victim of human trafficking even if they have not yet been exploited but have been moved for the purposes of exploitation.

A trafficker may trap people using violence, deception or coercion and then exploit them for financial or personal gain. This can include being forced into sexual exploitation, labour, begging, crime, domestic servitude, marriage or organ removal.

When a person is forced or coerced to work against their will, and someone else benefits for their labour, that’s involuntary servitude. It includes:

  • Any scheme, plan or pattern that’s intended to make a person believe that if they don’t work then they or someone else would suffer serious harm or physical restraint.

  • The abuse or threatened abuse of the legal process. This might include debt bondage, forced labour or slavery.

When a person is forced to work to pay off a debt, that’s debt bondage. They are tricked into working for little or no pay, with no control over their debt.

Most or all of the money they earn goes to pay off the debt, but the debt continues to grow, so the person in bondage has to continue to work. 

A victim is made to work with little or no pay and may face violence or threats. If they are foreign nationals, their passports may be confiscated by their exploiters and they may be made to live in terrible conditions and under constant threat.

Victims can be forced to participate in a range of illegal activities including pick pocketing, shop lifting, cannabis cultivation, county lines exploitation and other activities. The Modern Slavery Act provides for a defence for victims who have been forced into criminality.

For example benefit fraud, where benefits are falsely claimed by perpetrators on behalf of their workers; bank accounts being opened in a victim’s name but used by perpetrators; or workers’ wages being paid directly into the exploiters, own bank accounts by companies who think they are paying a worker individually.

Victims may be forced into prostitution, pornography or lap dancing for little or no pay. They may be deprived of their freedom of movement and subjected to threats and violence.

When people are forced to work against their will, under threat of punishment or violence, or any kind of threat, or through the abuse of law, that’s forced labour. It’s an extreme form of exploitation and slavery, and there are millions of adults and children around the world working in such conditions.

If you're a manager

  • Ensure that human rights are respected across your business and lookout for any signs of abuse that may be happening in parts of our business that you may encounter, including with our business partners and suppliers. 

  • Consider how your operation may impact on the human rights of others. Take particular care to assess potential human rights impacts of those who are in our care or use our services. Consider international standards and use Serco’s Human Rights Decision Tree to guide your assessment. If you need advice or guidance speak to your divisional Ethics and Compliance lead.

  • Where you have identified the potential for human rights abuses then you must put in place processes to manage and monitor them. This should include making your team aware of the risks and what is expected of them.

  • Never allow any form of modern slavery and human trafficking and do not use forced or child labour and do not work with anyone who does. 

  • Comply with local laws regarding the minimum age of employees.

  • Protect young workers from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous, to interfere with their education, or that may be harmful to their health, physical, mental, social, spiritual, or moral development.

  • Ensure that work given is voluntary and those working for you are free to terminate their employment in accordance with established laws, regulations, and rules. 

  • All colleagues have written contracts of employment in a language they understand, clearly indicating their rights and responsibilities about wages, working hours and other employment conditions.

  • Keeping hold of personal documents is sometimes used to bind workers to employment or to restrict their freedom of movement. We never do this, and never require those who work for us to hand over government-issued identification, passports or work permits as a condition of employment. If you think this is happening to anyone who is working for us or our suppliers, report it at once. 

  • Provide fair and equitable wages, benefits, and other conditions of employment in accordance with local laws.

  • Provide humane and safe working conditions, including safe housing conditions where applicable.

  • Recognise colleagues’ rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining.

  • Ensure our suppliers and business partners uphold our commitment to respect the rights and dignity of all people. Be familiar with our Supplier Code of Conduct and related supplier training. These explain Serco’s expectations and address potential human rights risks throughout our operations and supply chain.

  • If you have any questions, or need to conduct a human rights impact assessment, please reach out to your divisional Ethics and Compliance Lead for assistance.

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Staying safe, keeping well

Our vision is Zero Harm – no one harmed by the work we do.

Respecting our differences

Creating a workplace where everyone matters.

Fair treatment

We treat each other fairly and provide equal opportunities.

Coming to work free from substance abuse

We always come to work in a fit state to do our job.

No bullying, harassment or violence

We never bully, intimidate or act violently.

Hiring government officials and competitor employees

We never use someone else’s confidential information to gain an unfair competitive advantage.

Looking after our environment and climate

We are committed to addressing the environmental and climate emergencies.