Earlier this year the UK introduced the Modern Slavery Act 2015 (“the Act”) to combat modern slavery and human trafficking. The Act includes transparency compliance requirements on businesses and their supply chains. The keystone of this is that commercial organisations supplying goods or services who meet a certain turnover (see below) must prepare an annual “slavery and human trafficking statement” stating the steps that have been taken to ensure that neither slavery nor human trafficking are taking place in the business and its supply chains. The guidance and new legislation now complete the compliance picture.
As regards the latest legislation:
- Statement/Reporting Transitional Provisions – the “slavery and human trafficking statement” reporting requirement does not have effect in respect of a financial year ending before 31 March 2016. The guidance states as follows:
“Businesses with a financial year-end date between 29 October  and 30 March 2016 will not be required to publish a statement for that financial year of the organisation. Businesses with a year-end of 31 March 2016 will be the first businesses required to publish a statement for their 2015-2016 financial year. […] In practice we would encourage organisations to report within six months of the organisation’s financial year end”
– the guidance explains this in further detail with examples; and,
- Turnover threshold – it is now confirmed that in order to determine whether an organization is subject to the Act, the turnover threshold is UK £36 million (which will include the turnover of a parent and that of any of its subsidiaries).
We will be writing a set of FAQs to address all the key issues, including an in-depth look at the guidance. In the interim, we can only stress again that, if your business hasn’t already started doing so, now is the time for your business to take steps and consider doing the following:
- Task internal responsibility (including at the top) for anti-slavery compliance:
- Determine when you will have to publish a “slavery and human trafficking statement” (check the UK slavery rules and guidance);
- Undertake a business and supply chain audit to determine slavery risk as regards locations and vendors and follow this up by doing the relevant due diligence;
- Develop a “slavery and human trafficking statement” (and assign sign-off responsibility for the statement), and, a communications and advocacy strategy;
- Incorporate anti-slavery compliance into other policies and procedures such as codes of conduct, procurement procedures etc;
- Introduce/check anti-slavery clauses in contracts with suppliers;
- Undertake training of both business personnel and supply chains; and,
- Set up whistleblowing mechanisms for raising and reporting slavery concerns.
We have previously reported on slavery compliance issue here. We also recently jointly hosted an event with Mazars at our offices with a keynote speaker from the UK Home Office which we reported on here and also undertook took surveys about key issues which we summarised here.
André Bywater and Jonathan Armstrong are lawyers with Cordery in London where their focus is on compliance issues.
André Bywater, Cordery, Lexis House, 30 Farringdon Street, London, EC4A 4HH
Office: +44 (0)207 075 1785
Jonathan Armstrong, Cordery, Lexis House, 30 Farringdon Street, London, EC4A 4HH
Office: +44 (0)207 075 1784