The Modern Slavery Act (MSA) is now in force and will require almost immediate action by some organisations. But what is the MSA and how do you know if your organisation needs to take action?

The MSA aims to combat crimes of slavery and human trafficking by creating criminal offences and powers of enforcement. Many of us would be forgiven for thinking that this is a wider problem and not something UK businesses can influence. The Government disagrees.

The MSA says that businesses have a role to play. The mandatory obligations under the legislation only apply to large organisations with a global turnover above £36 million, but many businesses within the hospitality industry will fall within this category. Affected organisations are now required to publish an annual statement about modern slavery for each financial year which ends on or after 31 March 2016.

The detail of the statement isn’t set in stone; it is up to you to decide what it says. However, it should disclose what steps your organisation has taken to ensure that human trafficking is not taking place within the business. In theory, the statement could say that the organisation has taken no such steps, but clearly that wouldn’t be advisable from a reputational point of view.

It’s one thing for an organisation to consider whether such crimes exist within their own business, but the obligation extends to comment upon your supply chains too. The concept of a supply chain is broad – it is anything which enables the organisation to provide the service to its end user, be that by outsourcing or subcontracting eg cleaning or catering services. Within the hospitality industry such supply chains will be extensive. Organisations need to consider how they go about conducting the necessary due diligence in their supply chain; standard terms could be introduced with suppliers to ensure they are aware of your organisation’s stance on modern slavery.

With reputation in mind, it is also worth considering implementing a policy on the MSA which all staff are aware of. If you have trade unions in place, they may also need to be consulted about such a policy. Staff should also be trained on the subject as part of the organisation’s general corporate social responsibility and to assist in implementing the policy. A dedicated individual from management should be responsible for ensuring compliance with the policy and it should be clearly communicated to all staff who this individual is.

Clearly a moral obligation exists in relation to preventing modern slavery and human trafficking. All organisations, large and small, can play their part in ensuring it does not exist, whether the obligations under the MSA apply to them or not.