The Modern Slavery Act 2015
This Act, which came into force on 29 October 2015 is intended to give law enforcement the tools to fight modern slavery, ensure perpetrators can receive suitably severe punishments for these appalling crimes and enhance support and protection for victims. However, amongst all these things in the Act, there is also an obligation on companies to ensure they are playing their part. Section 54 of the Act requires all body corporates who supply goods or services to prepare a slavery and human trafficking statement, if their annual turnover exceeds £36million, and they carry out business in the UK.
Guidance has been released on how to interpret putting together the statement. There are no requirements other than it should be succinct but cover all relevant points, such as how the company’s structure and supply chain is set up, any policies on preventing slavery and human trafficking, the due diligence carried out by the company to try and prevent such issues, where the risks in their business are and what actions are being taken to try and limit them as well as any training procedures their staff goes through.
There is no deadline to submit a statement by a particular time each year, however it should be annual, and guidance suggests it should be released within six months of the end of the financial year. The statement should be published on a link in a prominent place on the company website (and if there are multiple websites, on each one).
The consequences of not complying with this are less severe than other recent pieces of legislation such as the Bribery Act 2010. There are no statutory penalties for not complying, meaning the Act relies upon the fear of what happens if they do not, such as loss of reputation in the industry for not taking their responsibilities seriously. The Secretary of State however can seek an injunction (which if not complied with, is punishable by an unlimited fine) if the company does not comply.
Therefore it is vital that companies in which fall into the threshold of a turnover over £36million trading in the UK take action to issue a statement as soon as possible, if not done so already, as well as amending any policies, training schedules and handbooks.