Co-op has “set the pace” in helping victims of modern slavery as it begins to roll out a scheme offering jobs to survivors of forced labour.
Victims will be offered a four-week work placement at Co-op’s food business.
The retailer is also drawing up a “matching system” which will pair other companies with local charities in order to provide more jobs.
The scheme, which aims to help an estimated 13,000 survivors of forced labour, sexual exploitation and domestic servitude, is being supported by charity City Hearts.
“This heinous crime will only be stopped by Government, businesses and society working together,” Co-op deputy chief executive Pippa Wicks said.
“By creating employment opportunities we can ensure victims stay out of the evil clutches of their captors.
“Working with City Hearts we are creating a matching scheme that will put charities, in any part of the UK, in touch with employers that are willing to support victims of modern slavery find the dignity that paid, freely chosen employment provides.
“We appreciate our approach, which has been successful in our food business, is not the only way to create jobs for those rescued and I am sure with determination, joint working and innovative thinking, we can find further solutions that work across other sectors.”
Head of the government’s work and pensions select committee, Frank Field, also voiced his support for the move.
“Modern slavery is the biggest injustice in the world today,” he said.
“Now that the Modern Slavery Act is on the statute book, the Co-op has set the pace on helping victims of slavery to begin to rebuild their lives through work.
“These efforts by the Co-op must not be underestimated and hopefully will quickly become industry policy.”