If you are a business with a global turnover above £36 million then you need to make sure you are compliant with the Modern Slavery Act 2015 (“MSA”). This came into force on 29 October 2015.

MSA is aimed at combatting crimes of slavery and human trafficking.  The MSA requires commercial organisations which operate in the UK and have a global turnover above £36 billion, to publish slavery and human trafficking statements each financial year that ends on or after 31 March 2016.

What Statement is required?

The statement needed has to set out the steps that the organisation has taken during the financial year to ensure that slavery and human trafficking has not taken place in any of its supply chains, and in any part of its own business.

What are the sanctions for failure to comply?

Once of the principal sanctions that may result if a business fails to comply or reports that it has taken no steps to ensure that slavery is not taking place is damage to the organisation’s reputation and brand.  In addition, the Secretary to State may seek an injunction (or civil proceedings in Scotland for specific performance) requiring the organisation to comply.  If the organisation fails to comply with the injunction, it will be in contempt of a court order, which is punishable by an unlimited fine.

What form should the statement take?

No form is required by the MSA but it is suggested that the following topics might be included:

  • Structure.  The organisation and structure, its business and its supply chains.
  • Policies.  Its policies on slavery and human trafficking.
  • Due Diligence.  Its due diligence relating to slavery and human trafficking in its business and supply chains.
  • Risks.  The parts of the business and supply chains where there is a risk of slavery and human trafficking taking place and the steps taken to assess and manage that risk.
  • Keep performance indicators.  Is effectiveness in ensuring slavery and human trafficking is not taking place in its business and supply chains especially against performance indicators as it considers appropriate.
  • Training.  Make training about slavery and human trafficking available to its staff.  

When does the obligation to make the statement commence?

The obligation to make a slavery and human trafficking statement applies to organisations with financial years ending 31 March 2016 and after.  Those with financial year end between 29 October 2015 and 30 March 2016 will not be required to file a statement for that financial year.  There is no prescribed time limit in which to make the statement.  The guidance suggests this should be published as soon as possible after the financial year end to which it relates, to ensure that it is relevant and current.  Organisations will be encouraged to make the report within 6 months of the organisations financial year to which the statement relates.  

Where should the statement be published?

The statement should be published on the organisation's website and the link must be in a prominent place on the home page.  If the organisation has more than one website, the statement should be placed on the most appropriate website in relation to the organisations business in the UK.  If there is more than one relevant website, the guidance suggests placing a copy of the statement, or a link to it, on each website.  

For organisations without a website, a copy of the statement should be provided to anyone who requests one in writing.

Guidance

The Home Office has produced guidance which can be found at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/471996/Transparency_in_Supply_Chains_etc__A_practical_guide__final_.pdf

 Action Points:

  • Make sure you have a policy on slavery and human trafficking
  • Put in place steps to ensure that you have a slavery and human trafficking statement each financial year
  • Make sure the slavery and human trafficking statement is published
  • Consider training about slavery and human trafficking to your staff