Modern slavery in Surrey nail bars – how to spot the signs

modern slavery in Surrey nail bars

For many people, getting their nails done is a regular part of their self-care. Many nail bars are legitimate businesses staffed by trained manicurists who are paid a decent wage for their work. But, very sadly, we also find modern slavery in Surrey nail bars.

What is modern slavery?

Modern slavery is when people are coerced into working somewhere but not adequately paid or decently treated. Modern slaves are people who are exploited for someone else’s personal or commercial gain.

Nail bars are just one situation in which people may be coerced and exploited by criminals. However, modern slavery also includes county lines, sex work, domestic service and other forced labour like car washing.

This is a serious problem but with your help, it can be stopped.

Why is there a link between nail bars and modern slavery?

Nail bars are sometimes part of a more complicated picture, with business owners involved in other crimes too.


Criminals may choose to run a nail bar instead of another business because nail bars are one of the most under-regulated services on the high street. Nail bar owners do not have to hold a license that allows them to operate. This means that they can trade without anyone checking up on them, allowing them to get away with criminal activity.

The criminals keep nearly every penny made by the nail bar, paying their workers little or nothing at all. Anti-modern-slavery organisations call this forced labour. However, more serious money comes from other criminal activities fronted by the nail bar, like drug dealing and money laundering.

How do people end up as modern slaves?

In illegitimate nail bars, the workers have often been trafficked from abroad, lured by the promise of paid work in the affluent UK. However, when they arrive, the reality is quite different. The workers are not paid, not are they looked after or given suitable accommodation. They are often threatened and coerced into working. Sometimes the workers are underage too, vulnerable young people with no support network.

Modern slaves have no freedom and no dignity. They are effectively held prisoner by the people who control them. Their experiences can have a profound effect and take years to recover from.

How can I tell whether a nail bar is using slave labour?

Criminals are very good at covering their tracks, and it is not always easy to spot whether their workers are being exploited. However, there are some signs to look out for:

  • The nail bar may accept cash payments only, enabling criminals to bypass bank checks which may reveal the truth.
  • The nail bar might have low prices, suggesting that they are not paying the staff enough, or even not paying them at all.
  • The workers may not speak English or make eye contact with you. They might appear scared or uncomfortable.
  • All the financial transactions go through one person.

What should I do if I think a nail bar is using slave labour?

If you think you’ve seen modern slavery in Surrey nail bar, you should tell the police, Crimestoppers or your local anti-slavery team. Because criminals are very good at hiding the truth about their “businesses,” the threshold for the modern slavery prevention team to get involved is very low. This means you don’t have to wait until you know for certain that a nail bar is using slave labour. Instead, if you have seen any of the signs listed above, you can contact the local anti-slavery unit and they will investigate.

If you have a hunch but you’re not sure, it’s better to speak up. If the police investigate and find everything is above board, you won’t get into trouble. But if you suspect something and say nothing, you could prolong dangerous criminal activities.

Report modern slavery anonymously

You can report anonymously. If you prefer not to deal with the police, Crimestoppers is an independent charity where you can report concerns without having to give any personal details. You will be taken seriously, and protection and support are available too.

Will I get into trouble for using a nail bar that relies on slave labour?

No. Criminals are very good at pretending they are employing people legally. No one will blame you for using what you thought was a legitimate business. The police and Crimestoppers know that without licensing for nail bars, it is hard to tell whether or not the one you go to is above board.

If you think you’ve had your nails done by someone being held as a modern slave, report your suspicions today.

To report a suspicion or seek advice you can contact the Modern Slavery Helpline confidentially on 08000 121 700. This is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

You can report modern slavery online or call Surrey Police on 101 at any time to report an incident. If you have a hearing or speech impairment, use the textphone service on 18001 101.

If you wish to remain anonymous you can contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.


Image Credits:

  • giorgio-trovato-gb6gtiTZKB8-unsplash: Photo by Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash


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