The Modern Slavery Act 2015 consolidates current offences relating to trafficking and slavery, but it also criminalises aiding, abetting or procuring forced labour or human trafficking.
However, large employers need to be alert to the introduction of Section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015, where there will be a requirement to publish a ‘slavery and human trafficking statement’ on their website every financial year. This will apply to large commercial organisations that supply goods or services in the UK (even if its only a UK arm with the majority of operations based overseas) and importantly have a global turnover of £36 million or more (including from any subsidiaries). Although no official implementation date has been set, this is due to be brought in this month (i.e. October 2015) so affected organisations should begin preparations to comply with this new law.
This requirement is part of a continuing trend compelling businesses to address adverse human rights impacts of not only their own activities, but those of their entire value chain. This means that corporate social responsibility will be phased out and replaced by a legal requirement for transparency between the dealings of the organisations, direct suppliers, sub-contractors and throughout their supply chain.
You may be thinking what should be contained in this statement? The Government plans to issue non-prescriptive guidance on what should be contained but unhelpfully, this will only be issued at the same time as the legislation takes effect. Leaving affected organisations in the dark with their advance preparations. However, indications so far suggest that a statement may include:-
The Statement will need to be approved by the Board and signed by a director before being published on the company website.
It is likely that such a task is going to fall at the feet of the risk, compliance and HR teams in these large organisations. Affected businesses should act now to consider their current policies, engage with their supply chains and think about training requirements. Further details will be confirmed as and when released.