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June 14, 2024

12 years of modern slavery: Kalayaan’s new report exposes the smokescreen used to deny rights to migrant domestic workers that would keep them safe at work


On International Domestic Workers’ Day 2024, Kalayaan releases our new report, 12 years of modern slavery: the smokescreen used to deflect state accountability for migrant domestic workers.

Download our new report here.

Whilst acknowledging that exploitation is multifaceted and abusive employers must be held accountable, Kalayaan’s focus in our new report is demonstrating the role and legal duty the state has to ensure that our legal systems are compatible with our positive obligations to protect and safeguard all workers.

Our report reveals the smokescreen the previous Government has used for the past 12 years when denying calls to guarantee the safety of this workforce at work in the UK. Kalayaan shines a spotlight on these myths and demonstrates that they are not rooted in evidence and do not meet the needs of workers, placing them at risk of harm.

Included in our report is new evidence of the abuse experienced by domestic workers in the UK. Rates of abuse are significantly higher following drastic changes made to the domestic worker visa 12 years ago, in April 2012. Changes introduced in 2016 have made little difference with abuse remaining at consistently higher levels than was the case pre-April 2012.

Numerous attempts have been made by workers and their supporters over the past 12 years to reverse these changes. Parliamentarians have been lobbied, petitions have been signed, and workers have bravely spoken out. Civil society organisations have engaged with various government-stakeholder groups and a number of international monitoring mechanisms have expressed concern about the UK’s legislative framework and how it puts workers at unacceptable risk. All attempts to restore rights have so far been rejected.

Kalayaan’s report scrutinises and dismantles 8 key myths that have been relied on when rejecting calls to reinstate labour law rights for workers. Ultimately, the report finds that the myths relied upon by the Government during the past 12 years are a smokescreen for the state’s failure to ensure our legal system does not facilitate the abuse and exploitation of this workforce.

Kalayaan is only making one recommendation in our report. That the incoming Government does not seek to hide behind myths that are not rooted in evidence, and which do not meet the needs of workers. The incoming Government must restore the pre-2012 visa regime with rights to ensure the safety and dignity of all workers whilst at work in the UK.

  • The right to change employer
  • The right to renew their domestic worker visa annually
  • The right to be joined by spouses, partners and children under 18 and
  • The right to settle in the UK after five years of continuous work as a domestic worker.


For further information about our report and media enquiries, please contact