The UK’s Modern Slavery Act 2015 (MSA) introduces today (Thursday 29 October) a new requirement for global commercial organisations with a minimum global turnover of £36million per year to publish a slavery and human trafficking statement about steps taken during each financial year to ensure slavery and human trafficking has not taken place in any part of the business or any supply chain. The UK government has published guidance to assist organisations in complying with the new requirement. The MSA applies to businesses, including partnerships, carrying on any part of their business in the UK – wherever they may be incorporated.

Organisations with a financial year-end date of 31 March 2016, and thereafter, must publish a slavery and human trafficking statement for the financial year within six months of their financial year-end.

Transitional provisions

Although the requirement is now in force, commercial organisations with a financial year-end from 29 November 2015 to 30 March 2016 (inclusive) will not be required to make a slavery and human trafficking statement for the financial year 2015/2016.

Contents of the statement

The statement, approved by board members (or LLP members) must be either about the steps the organisation has taken during the financial year to ensure slavery and human trafficking is not taking place in any of its supply chains or any part of its own business; or that it has taken no such steps (although the latter statement may have adverse PR consequences). Although there is no prescribed form, the statement may include information about:

  • the organisation’s structure, business and supply chains
  • any relevant policies relating to modern slavery and human trafficking and its due diligence processes in its business and supply chains
  • staff training
  • evaluating the parts of its business and supply chains which carry a risk of slavery and human trafficking, and steps taken by the business to assess and manage that risk
  • an organisation’s effectiveness in ensuring that slavery and human trafficking is not taking place in its business or supply chains, measured against performance indicators.

Publication

If the organisation has a website, it must publish the statement on that website and include a link to the statement in prominent place on the homepage. In the absence of a website, a business must provide a copy of the statement to anyone making a written request within 30 days of receipt of the request.

Guidance

The UK government has published guidance for organisations on how to write a statement. Statements should be:

  • In simple language so it is accessible to everyone
  • In English, but may be provided in other languages if relevant to the organisation’s business and supply chain
  • Succinct but comprehensive, providing links to relevant policies and documents if appropriate (such as a strategic statement under the Companies Act 006, or a CSR policy)
  • Specifying actions country by country to explain the context of actions taken to minimise risks.