Operators of five car washes in Rother in East Sussex have been warned over failures in how they treat their staff.
Inspections by Rother District Council found all of them were failing to comply with health and safety legislation or to pay their workers the minimum wage.
Breaches included failure to provide basic safety equipment such as appropriate safety footwear, waterproof clothing and basic eye protection for mixing chemicals, and failure to carry out risk assessments.
The council is highlighting the issue to coincide with Anti-Slavery Day on Friday, October 18, a national initiative aimed at raising awareness of modern slavery and human trafficking.
Councillor Jay Brewerton, district council cabinet member for safer communities, said: “People may not realise that modern slavery encompasses exploiting workers by failing to treat them in accordance with the law.
“The people who wash our cars work incredibly hard for very long hours and are entitled to receive at least the minimum wage and to be given appropriate workwear to enable them to do their job safely.
“Anti-Slavery Day is a good opportunity to highlight this issue and to send a clear message to employers who flout the law and mistreat their staff that we’ll use all powers available to us to ensure they comply.”
The council has powers to issue Community Protection Notices (CPNs) to businesses and individuals responsible for persistent unreasonable behaviour that has a negative impact on workers’ quality of life.
Warning letters - a precursor to a formal CPN - were issued to operators of five car washes in Bexhill, Hurst Green, Northiam and Robertsbridge.
The car wash in Northiam has subsequently been issued with a full CPN for failing to comply with the requirements of the warning letter.
Businesses which fail to comply with a CPN are issued with a fixed penalty notice and if they fail to pay can be prosecuted in magistrates’ court, where a fine of up to £20,000 can be issued.
The car washes issued with CPN warning letters were:
Dazzle Hand Car Wash and Valeting Service, Terminus Road, Bexhill;
Victoria Car Wash, Victoria Road, Bexhill;
Johns Cross Hand Car Wash, Battle Road, Robertsbridge;
A21 Car Wash, London Road, Hurst Green;
Unigate Car Wash, Station Road, Northiam.
Unigate Car Wash was subsequently issued with a full CPN.