Whilst most employers will probably not realise that this could have anything to do with them, as of 29 October 2015, thousands of UK organisations are now required to publish an annual anti-slavery and human trafficking statement.
The obligation to publish the annual statement is contained in s54 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 (“the Act”). The Act is intended to help eradicate ‘modern slavery’ in the UK. The aim of s54 is to promote the transparency of supply chains and to place a burden on organisations to help eradicate modern slavery and human trafficking. The annual statement must therefore describe the steps the employer has taken towards this goal, or state that no such steps have been taken. The latter is likely to result in reputational damage.
Who is affected?
The obligation only applies to commercial organisations which supply goods or services and have an annual turnover of at least £36 million.
The obligation is effective from 29 October 2015 and the statement should be published as soon as reasonably practicable after the financial year end. However, organisations with financial years that end between 29 October 2015 and 30 March 2016 do not have to produce a report for this year. The statement should be published on that organisation’s website.
If an organisation that is required to do so fails to produce a statement, the Secretary of State may go to the High Court to seek an injunction forcing it to do so. Again, this is likely to lead to severe reputational damage.
How to comply
The Government has issued guidance on what information could be included in the statement to demonstrate that the organisation has taken steps to counter modern slavery. A statement may include information about:
- The organisation’s structure, its 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 supply chains, measured against such performance indicators as it considers appropriate;
- The training and capacity building about slavery and human trafficking available to its staff.
The creation and implementation of effective policies, procedures and training is likely to go a long way towards satisfying this new statutory duty. Employers will need to produce thorough and practical methods for due diligence, and to provide guidance for staff on how to comply.