The Responsible Car Wash Scheme (RCWS), which aims to combat labour exploitation and ensure that hand car washes are law-abiding, was featured in the latest episode of Crimewatch, on BBC One on Monday September 20.
The feature explained how workers at some car washes can be victims of exploitation, and included a visit to a compliant car wash in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, which has been accredited by the RCWS.
Teresa Sayers, managing director of the RCWS, said: “Crimewatch Live provides a fantastic platform to highlight to the public potential indicators of worker exploitation that may be present at hand car washes.
“We ask the public to consider the price paid for the service provided, the payment methods available and to look at what the workers are wearing. What you see when next visiting a car wash could be an indicator of exploitation.
“The RCWS wants to make it easier for the public to identify a car wash that looks after its workers, protects the environment, cares for its customers and trades legally. Operators that meet our standard will display the RCWS logo.”
Darryl Dixon from the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) said: “We want to help the public make informed decisions about where they take their cars to be washed. There is a clear choice between using a fully compliant operator that has been through the RCWS accreditation process and verified by audits and spot-checks, and one that simply has not.
“Through our enforcement activity, we have seen examples of modern slavery at hand car washes where vulnerable workers are exploited for their labour. They are often not paid the correct wages or provided with any suitable personal protective equipment, and in some cases, live in overcrowded, unsanitary accommodation controlled by their exploiter.
“Exploiting vulnerable workers like this is completely unacceptable and we encourage the public to report their suspicions so we can take appropriate action.
“But we recognise that enforcement alone will not raise standards and drive up compliance across the board which is why the RCWS is such an important scheme in educating operators about their responsibilities in running a responsible car wash.”
Caroline Virgo, Director of The Clewer Initiative, said: “We are aware that some hand car washes in the UK may be exploiting workers and forcing them to work and live in unsafe conditions for little money.
“We want to raise public awareness so that people can help in identifying and reporting businesses where there may be such risks. If the business is legitimate, no one will get in trouble so if people have any concerns whatsoever, they must speak up.
“One easy way to be on the alert is to download The Safe Car Wash app. It’s really quick and easy to use – it asks a series of questions related to signs of modern slavery and helps the user know if they should get in touch with the Modern Slavery Helpline.
“By each of us doing a small thing like using the app, we can help make a massive difference. Victims of modern slavery are real people - just like every one of us, but they are trapped in exploitation, often living under threat of violence with nowhere to turn. They need us to notice them and start reporting our suspicions so that the criminals behind these enterprises can be caught and prosecuted.”