Why modern slavery is a matter for us all
It’s five years since the Modern Slavery Act (MSA) passed into law, and you don’t have to look too hard to see that it is still a major issue in our national life.
There is plenty of evidence that the issue continues to be a blight and that there remains much misunderstanding amongst companies about their responsibilities in this area.
That’s a desperately sad situation. When applied correctly, the MSA can help lift those affected out of truly horrendous exploitation and also lead to much-improved morale among companies which might, unwittingly, have relied on forced labour.
Latest figures from the Global Slavery Index for the UK suggest that as many as 136,000 people are caught up by modern slavery – though the Government’s own figures put the number as between 10-13,000.
Under the MSA, businesses with an annual turnover in excess of £36m must publish an annual statement setting out the action they have taken to ensure there is no slavery or human trafficking present within their organisation or supply chain.
This applies to corporates or partnerships which:
- Conduct at least some part of their business in the UK;
- supply goods and services
The Modern Slavery statement should be signed by a director and published in a prominent position on the company’s website. It should make reference to the organisation's structure, business and its supply chains, the policies in place in relation to human trafficking and slavery, how those policies are monitored, areas where a risk has been identified and training available to staff.
Because of coronavirus, the need to report has been delayed this year by up to six months if a company can demonstrate that the pandemic affected its ability to comply.
The majority of businesses may well think this does not affect them, because their turnover makes them too small to be caught up by the legislation.
But the need for larger companies to review their supply chains means that companies of any size can find themselves in the spotlight. As part of the due diligence required on the part of the largest companies., it may well be that they will ask their suppliers what steps they have in place to ensure they are complying with all aspects of the MSA.
To this end, they could well ask to see your own anti-slavery statement and the policies you have in place for tackling the issue. And if you don’t have any such policies, it might be a reason for them to look elsewhere when deciding future contracts.
So, it is in every company’s interest to have a policy – not just for the obvious reasons of stamping out this abhorrent crime, but for sound commercial and business reasons as well.
If you need help drawing up your own policy, contact us for a free consultation to get the ball rolling.