Users of a Safe Car Wash app have raised more than 2,000 issues that highlight potential incidents of human trafficking.
Reports of a lack of protective clothing and workers living on site, which are signs of labour exploitation, were flagged up by concerned smartphone users who use hand car washes.
It is part of The Responsible Car Wash Scheme, launched last summer by the Church of England’s anti-slavery division, called the Clewer Initiative. The app was downloaded more than 7,000 times in its first three months and produced more than 2,000 reports requiring action.
It allows smartphone users to learn about the signs of labour exploitation in hand car washes and report their concerns to the Modern Slavery Helpline.
Reports included lack of protective clothing, fearful workers and staff living on site, all of which are signs to be aware of.
Home Office figures show there are more than 10,000 victims of human slavery in the UK, across multiple industries, with people being forced to work with little or no pay.
It is understood hand car washes is one trade where exploitation is thought to be widespread.
Organisers of the app said that there was a likelihood that modern slavery was involved in 41 per cent of reported cases and users were advised to take matters further and contact the Modern Slavery Helpline. However, only 18 per cent of people went on to make that call.
In the cases that were reported, 48 per cent believed workers didn’t have access to protective clothing, 80 per cent noted the car wash had a cash-only policy and 17 per cent said that workers looked fearful.
The Responsible Car Wash Scheme was developed by the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority, the Police, the Health and Safety Executive, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, the Environment Agency, the Petrol Retailers Association and the charity Unseen.
It aims to develop a compliant industry that supports car washes to operate compliantly and to drive up standards through the sharing of best practice, working to improve the working conditions of employees through upholding workers’ rights and conditions.