Hand car washes targeted by GLAA during three-week national blitz
26th July 2022
The Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) visited almost 200 hand car washes during a three-week national operation targeting modern slavery and labour exploitation.
Officers spoke to more than 600 workers at 180 sites during a three-week period in June.
In total, more than 500 hand car wash businesses were visited by law enforcement as part of the latest phase of Operation Aidant.
Intelligence gathered by the GLAA and other agencies indicates that car wash workers can be forced to work long hours in poor conditions for little or no pay.
In even more extreme cases, workers live in fear of those exploiting them because of threats of violence, abuse and controlling them in an endless cycle of debt.
Hand car washes where modern slavery is identified are also highly likely to be used to enable other forms of serious and organised crime, such as money laundering.
Some of the issues uncovered by the GLAA during this latest activity included:
- No contracts of employment for workers
- No tax or National Insurance payments
- Little or no PPE
- Illegal working
- False recording of hours
- No sick pay or annual leave
GLAA Head of Enforcement Ian Waterfield said: “This was a significant undertaking by our organisation and our partners across law enforcement. We have once again demonstrated the effectiveness of our work in protecting vulnerable and exploited workers.
“It’s no understatement to say that the visits have thrown up hundreds of lines of enquiry that we are actively following up.
“Sadly the issues we discovered are replicated at many hand car washes up and down the country. It’s not just how some of these premises exploit their workers though; there are numerous problems related to health and safety, trading standards and environmental breaches which are also concerning.
“I can’t stress how significant a role the public has in putting an end to these exploitative practices. If the hand car wash you visit only charges you £2 for a wash, the workers washing your car will not be being paid the National Minimum Wage. And if they are not receiving the pay that they are entitled to, it’s highly likely that many of their other employment rights will be being ignored and disregarded.”
Find out more about how to spot the signs of labour exploitation at hand car washes by listening to this GLAA podcast produced with the Responsible Car Wash Scheme.
If you have concerns that a car wash near you is exploiting its workers, contact the GLAA’s intelligence team on 0800 4320804 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also download the Safe Car Wash app developed by the Clewer Initiative and report your concerns there.
Alternatively, call the Modern Slavery and Exploitation Helpline on 08000 121 700 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.