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Banking Access for Sex Workers: Challenges and Responses in the UK

UK Finance, representing the banking and financial sector, has acknowledged the challenges sex workers face in accessing banking services, highlighting potential risks for financial institutions. Despite sex work being legal in the UK, reports indicate that individuals in this profession often encounter difficulties obtaining banking services.

Banking Access for Sex Workers: Challenges and Responses in the UK

Responding to concerns raised in a public petition with over 11,000 signatures, UK Finance emphasized the importance of banking access while acknowledging the stringent legal and regulatory obligations banks must adhere to. In a statement, UK Finance said: “Access to banking is vitally important and we understand the impact of account closures. Banks must comply with strict legal and regulatory requirements and while banking the proceeds of sex work is not a criminal offence, the potential related risks are very high. Lenders will make a decision about this based on their own risk appetite, but only after extensive review and investigation.”


The issue gained attention following reports that sex workers were being denied basic banking services, such as opening accounts, due to their occupation. Although soliciting sex work is prohibited in England and Wales, selling and buying sexual services among consenting adults is lawful.


Campaign groups, including the English Collective for Prostitutes, have highlighted the plight of sex workers facing exclusion from financial services, exacerbating their isolation and vulnerability to exploitation. With an estimated 73,000 individuals engaging in sex work in the UK, predominantly women, the impact of financial exclusion on this community is significant.


In response to the petition, the UK government emphasized that credit institutions cannot deny consumers access to personal payment accounts based on protected characteristics. It reiterated the obligation for major banks to provide fee-free basic accounts to individuals experiencing difficulty in opening traditional accounts.


Furthermore, the government pledged to enhance consumer protections, including extending the minimum notice period for account closures from two months to 90 days. This measure aims to afford individuals sufficient time to address or contest such decisions.


The ongoing dialogue between advocacy groups, financial institutions, and policymakers underscores the complexity of addressing the financial inclusion of marginalized communities while balancing regulatory obligations and risk management practices within the banking sector.



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