Will your organisation be affected by the Modern Slavery Act?

In a nutshell

What is it all about? The Modern Slavery Act (the Act) has introduced new obligations which will apply to certain commercial organisations. Those organisations covered by the provisions within the Act will be required to publish an annual anti slavery and human trafficking statement. This may require significant auditing of a business’ supply chain.
Why should you care? If covered by the Act there will be an additional burden placed on commercial organisations to publish either: 1. a statement of the steps it has taken during the financial year to ensure that slavery and human trafficking has not taken place in any of its supply chain or in any part of its business; or 2. a statement that it has taken no such steps. 
Although there are no penalties to date, if an organisation fails to publish an annual statement they may be compelled to do so by the Secretary of State. This could potentially lead to bad publicity.
What do you need to do now? The relevant section of the Act is not yet in force but for commercial organisations caught by the legislation it would be sensible to review their current policies, procedures and supply chain. Such steps might help minimise the impact of having to make an anti-slavery statement once the requirement comes in to force.
Get in touch: If you would like to speak to someone about the issues raised, please call contact Ewan Stafford or find out more on our employment law page.

Human Trafficking Slavery Modern

The full story

“Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves” – Abraham Lincoln 

From October 2015 commercial organisations who supply goods or services and have a turnover of greater than £36 million will have to report publicly on the steps that they have taken to ensure that their operations and supply chains are free from slavery and human trafficking.

The term ‘commercial organisation’ is drafted very widely in the legislation and includes not only companies but could also cover partnerships, limited liability partnerships and bodies corporate wherever incorporated, which carry on business or part of a business in the UK.

Although the government has indicated that it will not set out down hard and fast rules with regards to the contents of statements, it will require key elements to be recorded. These are:

  • The organisational structure, its business and supply chains;
  • Its policies in relation to slavery and human trafficking;
  • Its due diligence processes in relation to slavery and human trafficking and its business and supply chains;
  • The parts of its business and supply chains where there is a risk of slavery and human trafficking taking place;
  • The steps it has taken to assess and mange that risk;
  • Its effectiveness in ensuring that slavery and human trafficking is not taking place in its business and supply chains;
  • Performance indicators as it considers appropriate; and
  • The training about slavery and human trafficking available to its staff.

Where the organisation is a body corporate the slavery and human trafficking statement must be approved by the board of directors and signed by a director. Where the commercial organisation is a LLP the statement must be approved by the members and signed by a designated member. Where the commercial organisation is a limited partnership it must be signed by a general partner. Finally, where the organisation is any other kind of partnership it must be signed by a partner.

If the commercial organisation has a website then the statement must be published on that website. There must be a prominent link to the slavery and human trafficking statement available on the home page.

The government has acknowledged that not all businesses have websites. If this is the case then such a commercial organisation must provide a copy of its slavery and human trafficking statement to anyone who makes a written request for one within 30 days of the request being received.

At the present time there are no financial penalties for non-compliance but should the commercial organisation fail to have such a statement then the Secretary of State may take steps to compel the commercial organisation to issue one.

Is there any guidance available?

The government plans to issue guidance in October on how best to comply with their obligations under the Modern Slavery Act. If a business does not already have policies in place then it may wish to consider how and what practices, polices and training relating to slavery and human trafficking they wish to put in place.

Get in touch

Employers should be proactive in establishing what is required of them to meet their obligations under the Act. If you require any help or further information of the impact of these proposed regulations on your business please don’t hesitate to contact one the employment team.