What is Modern Slavery?
According to the UK government, modern slavery constitutes slavery, servitude, forced or compulsory labour and human trafficking.
- Slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour: A person commits an offence if a) the person holds another person in slavery or servitude and the circumstances are such that the person knows or ought to know that the other person is held in slavery or servitude, or (b)the person requires another person to perform forced or compulsory labour and the circumstances are such that the person knows or ought to know that the other person is being required to perform forced or compulsory labour.
- Human trafficking: A person commits an offence if the person arranges or facilitates the travel of another person (“V”) with a view to V being exploited. It is irrelevant whether V consents to the travel which constitutes arriving in, or entering, departing from or travelling within any country.
What is the Modern Slavery Act 2015?
The Modern Slavery Act was created on 25 March 2015 and is a provision for slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour and about human trafficking, including provision for the protection of victims.
Does the Modern Slavery Act apply to your business?
The provision in the Act requires that any commercial organisation in any sector that
- supplying goods or services,
- carries on a business or part of a business in the UK, and
- is above a specified total turnover (£36M)
must produce a slavery and human trafficking statement for each financial year of the organisation.
The Modern Slavery Act 2015 also applies foreign companies that have UK subsidiaries.
What does Section 54 say?
Section 54 covers ‘transparency in supply chains’ and indicates that businesses should publish an annual modern slavery statement describing the steps they have taken to identify and address modern slavery risks within their business.
How do I comply with Modern Slavery Act, Section 54?
Companies must identify the parts of its business and supply chains where there is a risk of slavery and human trafficking taking place by mapping out their supply chains in depth. By achieving supply chain transparency, business can easily assess and manage that risks, ensuring compliance with the Modern Slavery Act.
Your company should produce either a) a statement of the measures taken by the organisation during the financial year to ensure that slavery and human trafficking are not occurring in any of its supply chains nor in any part of its own company, or b) a statement that no such steps have been taken.
The statement may include details about the organisation, supply chain structures, modern slavery policies, due diligence conducted and effectiveness in mitigating modern slavery in supply chains. You may also share parts of the business where there is a risk of modern slavery and the steps taken to manage that risk.
Companies must publish the modern slavery statement on their website home page, including a clearly visible link to the document. If the organisation does not have a website, it must include a copy of the slavery and human trafficking statement to anyone who makes a written request for one within 30 days of receiving the request.
How has COVID-19 heightened the risk of modern slavery?
The government has identified sectors where jobs may be more vulnerable to modern slavery as a result of COVID-19, and has proposed the following preventive measures and considerations:
- Health and safety: Businesses should implement relevant local or national government policies throughout the supply chain, including social distancing measures and paying statutory sick pay.
- Supporting suppliers: To avoid workers being unpaid for work completed, businesses should prioritise engagement with suppliers, including paying for orders already in production if possible.
- Grievance procedures: Workers should still be able to access grievance procedures and businesses should ensure that new or adapted procedures are made available if necessary.
- Recruitment: If sectors and businesses have seen an increased demand requiring additional and temporary workers, they should maintain rigorous checks on their supply chains to protect vulnerable works.
Through supply chain transparency, companies could easily monitor the various levels of their supply chain and ensure regulation compliance.
Check out our interview on modern slavery with activist Ishaan Shah.