In the autumn last year the UK government (through the Home Office) issued its “2019 Annual Report on Modern Slavery”, which can be found here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/840059/Modern_Slavery_Report_2019.pdf. This article sets out some of the key points made in the report.
What is UK modern slavery compliance all about?
Under the UK Modern Slavery Act 2015 (the 2015 Act), compliance disclosure/transparency requirements mean that an organisation with UK £36 million turnover that sells goods or services in the UK is required to annually publish a slavery statement demonstrating what they are doing to ensure that there is no slavery or human trafficking in the business or the supply-chain; this also applies to organisations based outside the UK selling goods and services into the UK.
As the UK’s official accompanying guidance on the disclosure/transparency requirements states, organisations must “paint a detailed picture” of all the steps that they have taken. This compliance obligation has now been in force since 29 October 2015 and many organisations who fall under it have already previously published their statements in the last few years.
Latest UK government modern slavery report
Every year the UK government issues a report about what the government has done to combat modern slavery and human trafficking – notable highlights of the UK government’s latest report are as follows:
- An estimated 75% of organisations who fall under the disclosure/transparency requirements obligation have published an annual slavery statement;
- “An audit of compliance is underway and persistently non-compliant organisations risk being publicly named”;
- In 2019 the Independent Review of the Modern Slavery Act was finalised and issued (the Review – for more on this see ‘Next steps’ below);
- In 2019, Dame Sara Thornton assumed the role of the new Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner; the Commissioner plays an instrumental role in giving independent advice on modern slavery issues and how they should be tackled across the whole UK;
- In 2019, The UK Government declared its intention to invest £10 million to establish a new Modern Slavery Policy and Evidence Centre to transform the understanding of modern slavery; and,
- In 2018, 141 defendants were proceeded against for a total of 300 modern slavery offences as provided for in the 2015 Act.
Key measures that Government will take forward in response to the Review include the following:
- “Consulting on measures to strengthen transparency in supply chains legislation, including extending the transparency requirements to the public sector and improving the quality of statements”; and,
- “Creating a free online central reporting service for business’ modern slavery statements, to empower consumers, NGOs and investors to scrutinise the action that businesses are taking to prevent modern slavery in their supply chains”.
We last wrote about possible legislative changes to the 2015 Act here: https://www.corderycompliance.com/uk-modern-slavery-legislation-review-consultation/.
Although efforts to amend the 2015 Act (via so-called Private Members’ Bills) have so far not met with success, and although the UK Parliament’s time is likely to be filled up in 2020 with Brexit-related legislation, it is still likely that at some point in the future the 2015 Act will be changed and given more teeth in terms of compliance enforcement.
In the meantime compliance with existing obligations continue and those organisations whose financial end-of-year will be this December 2019 and who meet the criteria to publish a slavery statement will be required to publish a statement to cover the period of January-December 2019. If this is a statement following on from any previous one(s) it will have to show progress on the previous one(s).
We have also written about modern slavery and Brexit here: http://www.corderycompliance.com/brexit-and-modern-slavery-compliance-2/
Training is a vital part of any compliance, which is equally true of modern slavery compliance. Crucially, employees and suppliers need to know how to spot the signs that modern slavery may be taking place, which we have made a short film about that can be found here: http://www.corderycompliance.com/spotting-the-signs-of-modern-slavery/
For other articles that we have written about modern slavery compliance please see here: http://www.corderycompliance.com/category/modern-slavery/
For more information please contact André Bywater or Jonathan Armstrong who are commercial lawyers with Cordery in London where their focus is on compliance issues.
|Jonathan Armstrong, Cordery, Lexis House, 30 Farringdon Street, London, EC4A 4HH||André Bywater, Cordery, Lexis House, 30 Farringdon Street, London, EC4A 4HH|
|Office: +44 (0)207 075 1784||Office: +44 (0)207 075 1785|