Car Wash Association warns about modern slavery

edited photo by Damien Walmsley (Flickr cc)

In their annual report about the state of car washing in the UK, the Car Wash Association warns about non-compliant hand car wash businesses. They go as far as calling it ‘modern slavery, often committed in plain sight’.

The so-called non-compliant hand car wash (HCW) operators are estimated by the police to account for 80 per cent of all HCWs in the UK. According to the CWA non-compliance can take many forms. From breaches of environmental regulations to non-payment of tax, to labour abuse including failure to pay the minimum wage and forcing workers to endure dangerous working conditions.

Big turnover

Hand car washes are commonplace in streets and communities across the UK, with estimates ranging from 8,000 to 20,000 locations, with annual turnover estimated to be £1.8 billion. The HCW industry has been identified as a high-risk sector for labour abuse. The workforce can include illegal migrants who have been trafficked to the UK.


67 per cent of the workers are male and between 18-34 old, CWA found. The men are mostly from Romania and Albania. Though nationals from Asian countries are featuring more prominently in recent years. The Car Wash Association has been campaigning for several years to raise public awareness about the crimes associated with the HCW industry. One of the initiatives is the ‘SafeCarWash’ mobile app. A joint effort of the Church of England and the Catholic Church to spread public awareness and reporting by customers of possible signs of slavery in HCWs.

Author: Rene Passet

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