Modern day slavery is a global problem which is estimated to be worth some US$ 32 billion per year. The Modern Slavery Act 2015 (“the Act”) came into force this month (October 2015) and the Government has estimated that some 12,000 organisations in the UK will be affected. The Act brings together legislation relating to trafficking and slavery – which includes servitude and forced labour – and is relevant to organisations that supply goods and services and have a minimum total turnover (global) of £36million per year.
What is the effect of the Act?
The Act imposes an obligation on organisations to publish a ‘slavery and human trafficking statement’. The Statement must include information about:
• The steps the organisation has taken to ensure that slavery and human trafficking is not taking place in any of its supply chains, and in any part of its own business; or
• That the organisation has taken no such steps to ensure that slavery and human trafficking is not taking place in any of its supply chains, and in any part of its own business.
The Statement may include information about:
• The organisation’s structure, business and its supply chains;
• Its policies in relation to slavery and human trafficking;
• Its due diligence processes in relation to slavery and human trafficking in 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, and the steps it has taken to assess and manage that risk;
• Its effectiveness in ensuring that slavery and human trafficking is not taking place in its business or supply chains, measured against such performance indicators as it considers appropriate; or
• The training about slavery and human trafficking available to its staff.
What is the penalty for failing to comply?
There is no financial penalty for failing to publish a Statement. However, the Government can apply to the High Court to grant an injunction to force an organisation to comply. Given that such enforcement action would bring the organisation into the public eye with adverse publicity and potential reputational damage, this alone should be a strong incentive for compliance.
Top 5 things you need to do if you are an affected organisation
• Audit your business and supply chains, especially where your supply chains operate in countries which pose a higher risk in relation to slavery and trafficking.
• Make sure your existing policies in the UK and with your supply chains address the issue of slavery and trafficking.
• Ensure that your tender documentation and supplier ‘codes of conduct’ set out the minimum working conditions that the supplier must provide to its staff and those whose services it uses.
• Put in place mechanisms whereby your staff can blow the whistle if they have concerns over slavery and trafficking.
• Provide training to your staff to ensure they understand the obligations and requirements of the Act.
The Government has also published guidance in relation to the Act and the annual publication of the slavery and human trafficking statement.