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Closed - Call for research: links between modern slavery and wider laws and policies

Call for research on links to wider legal and policy frameworks.

Published: 30th September 2021

This is an open funding call run in collaboration between the Modern Slavery and Human Rights Policy and Evidence Centre (Modern Slavery PEC) and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

The aim of the research is to produce high quality impactful evidence on the role of wider legal and policy frameworks on modern slavery and identify strategic opportunities to redesign policies to better safeguard against modern slavery.

The call looks to fund research that provides new evidence on the role of current legal and policy frameworks in the following areas and the ways that they operate in relation to modern slavery:

  • immigration and asylum
  • labour market regulation and governance
  • law and policy on sex work
  • safeguarding policy and practice in health and social protection
  • criminal justice, e.g. drug policies
  • international development and foreign policy
  • other areas proposed by researchers with clear justification

This call welcomes proposals from a range of backgrounds. All project teams must demonstrate collaboration with at least one UK based third sector organisation and incorporate people with lived experience into the design and methodologies of their project.

The full economic cost of your project can be up to £250,000 (at 100% fEC) and projects can last for a maximum of 12 months. AHRC will fund projects at 80% fEC. All standard fEC research project costs as per section three of the AHRC funding guide are permitted, however the following also apply to this call:

  • Involvement with NGOs, third-sector organisations and civil society groups etc. can be costed under other DI Exceptions and paid at 100% FEC, but must constitute no more than 30% of the total budget.
  • Costs for integrating persons with lived experience of modern slavery in the research process are strongly encouraged.
  • Similarly, appropriate costs for enabling effective engagement and involvement of policymakers are also encouraged, please note that this work will also be supported by the Modern Slavery PEC.

Legal and policy frameworks are understood to include both design and implementation of regulation and enforcement. For example, in relation to wider policy and practice on safeguarding in the context of health and social protection, projects may explore how implementation impacts on identification of potential victims, and treatment of those who have previously experienced modern slavery.

In the area of sex work and modern slavery projects may seek to produce evidence regarding the ways in which different models or approaches to law and policy on sex work can have differential effects on modern slavery, or impact on those who are affected by modern slavery.

In relation to immigration and asylum, a project could develop evidence on the extent to which the new points-based system of immigration, or the operation of the asylum system, include adequate safeguards against exploitation.

In relation to the labour market, projects may choose to explore possible causal relationships between patterns of non-compliance on minimum standards in the labour market (e.g. non-payment of minimum wage) and modern slavery - to explore impacts on vulnerable groups or in order to inform enforcement strategy.

Projects may seek to develop an evidence base to inform how issues around modern slavery could be better incorporated in developing government priorities, e.g. on international development or international trade, as expressed in the recent Integrated Review, or how understanding of modern slavery risks could be integrated in specific areas of criminal justice, such as policies on drug-related crime.

Applications are invited to focus on the UK, including on one or more of its constituent countries. Alternatively, they could focus on other jurisdictions, when there is an identifiable interest or benefit for the development of UK policy, for example UK international development policy. The Modern Slavery PEC is seeking to fund a portfolio of projects that cover a range of legal/policy areas. Applicants can choose to focus on one area, combine more than one, or include others not listed, providing strong justification is given.

Who is eligible

All projects must be led by a UK higher education institution or approved research organisation eligible to receive UKRI funding, and projects must be carried out in collaboration with at least one UK based third sector organisation. In accordance with the Modern Slavery PEC’s strategic objective of facilitating collaboration, successful teams will also work in collaboration with the Modern Slavery PEC throughout the project to ensure alignment with our objectives and to maximise impact.

You can find the full details and specification of the call in the call guidance below.

Application process

This call will be run through a two-stage process. Stage one will consist of an expression of interest, submitted to the Modern Slavery PEC. During the stage one expression of interest, the Modern Slavery PEC team will be looking to see applications that fit within the scope of the funding call. The second stage will involve a full application submitted through the AHRC Je-S system.

Full information on the application process and assessment criteria can be found in the call document.


The PEC held a webinar for prospective applicants to provide the opportunity to hear more about the Modern Slavery PEC and its strategic objectives and principles, offer an overview of the call, and give more information on how the successful bid team will collaborate with the Modern Slavery PEC during the research.