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The Modern Slavery Act 2015

View profile for Philip Richardson
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The Modern Slavery Act 2015

What has your business done to ensure slavery and human trafficking is not happening in its operations or supply chain – and are you ready to publish your first legally-required Modern Slavery Act 2015 statement (MSA)?

The legislation now requires any business operating in the UK with a total annual turnover in the excess of £36m to publish a slavery and human trafficking statement each financial year. Companies which qualify at their financial year-end 2016 need to prepare and publish their statements on their website within six months, according to government guidance.

The MSA statement needs to outline the relevant steps a business has taken between 1 May 2015 and 30 April 2016. Government guidance entitled Transparency in Supply Chains states that businesses which have not taken any steps to ensure slavery and human trafficking is not taking place are still obliged to publish a statement confirming this. 

Within the 2015 act, modern slavery covers “slavery, servitude or forced or compulsory labour” and “human trafficking” and the Transparency in Supply Chains guidance emphasises that “the Government encourages all businesses to develop an appropriate and effective response to modern slavery” to “create a race to the top by encouraging businesses to be transparent about what they are doing”.

Companies which fail to comply with the requirements of the act going forward could face an injunction. Defying an injunction will place them in contempt of court and subject to an unlimited fine. Organisations which do not comply, or persistently report having taken no steps in line with the law’s requirements, are also risking their reputation and potential pressure from consumers, investors and Non-Governmental Organisations.

The Home Secretary, Theresa May MP, says in her foreword to the Government guidance: “By increasing supply chain accountability, more workers will be protected and consumers will have greater confidence in the goods and services they buy. It is simply not acceptable for any organisation to say, in the 21st century, that they did not know [or] put profit above the welfare and wellbeing of its employees and those working on its behalf.”

While the MSA is not prescriptive about what it should include, government guidance suggests that a statement may contain:

  • Information about an organisation’s structure, business and supply chain
  • Policies and due diligence processes relating to slavery and human trafficking
  • Details about where there is a risk of slavery and human trafficking happening across its business and supply chains
  • Measurement of effectiveness in ensuring neither is taking place
  • Evidence of relevant training in the subject available to staff

The guidance recommends that businesses producing a statement in one financial year should continue to do so, regardless of whether their annual turnover falls under the £36m threshold. It suggests that such companies will be demonstrating greater transparency by publishing MSA statements because they consider it important rather than a legal obligation.

To obtain the Government’s definitive guide to Transparency in Supply Chains, visit:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/transparency-in-supply-chains-a-practical-guide

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