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Modern Slavery Act - are you compliant?

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The requirement to produce a “slavery and human trafficking statement” has, with effect from 29th October 2015, been introduced via section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015.

From this date, businesses in the UK are now required to disclose the steps they have taken to eliminate slavery and human trafficking in their business and supply chains.

New Business Obligation under the Act

Under Part 6 of the Act, businesses supplying goods or services with a total turnover of no less than £36 million (worldwide rather than the UK alone) is now required to prepare a Slavery and Human Trafficking Statement at the end of each financial year setting out steps the organisation has taken (if any) to ensure that no slavery exists in its business or its supply chains. A slavery and human trafficking statement will be required to be published on the company website for each financial year, which is clearly visible and accessible to the general public. If the company has no website, the statement must be available upon request.

In addition to the above, affected business are expected to report annually on policies, training, due diligence process and the effectiveness of measures taken to remove modern slavery and trafficking. It is important to state that businesses are not required to guarantee that they and their supply chains are slavery free – not least because this would be almost impossible to do in any event!

The annual disclosure must be signed and approved by the most senior member of the organisation and made accessible on the homepage of the organisations website. The first statements will be required for financial years ending on or after 31st March 2015.

What to include in the Statement?

The statement should either show the steps taken by the business to ensure no slavery or human trafficking is involved in supply chains or any part of the businesses, or state that the business has not taken any such steps. If steps are taken, it is advised in the Act to include the following into the statement:

  • Overview of the company’s structure, business and its supply chains.
  • Company’s policies in relation to slavery or human trafficking.
  • The audit undertaken to assess whether modern slavery has taken place
  • The training provided about slavery and human trafficking that is available to staff.
  • Any part of the business or its supply chains that would involve the risk of slavery or human trafficking, and steps taken to assess and manage the risk.
  • Yearly progress reports detailing how the organisation assesses its annual progress on identifying and minimising risk.

What this means for employers

It is clear that the onus on businesses is high when it comes to complying with the requirement to produce such a statement. The government has already estimated that 12,000 businesses will be affected including many business which are based in the UK but operate outside the UK. 

For those businesses who issue a statement to confirm no assessing steps have taken, be prepared to be questioned as to why not. A failure to comply with the requirement will result in civil proceedings commenced by the Secretary of State.

Employers should therefore:-

  • Seek assistance in carrying out audits of the business and supply chains.
  • Conduct an audit of the business and supply relationships.
  • Seek training on how to fulfil compliance requirements.
  • Receive assistance with developing a tailored programme to ensure compliance.
  • Read the guidance!

For further information please read the guidance.