The Modern Slavery Act 2015
Until this year, there have been three separate pieces of legislation that deal with slavery and trafficking but the general consensus is that these have been impractical and difficult to use. This is clearly supported by the figures as there were only 8 convictions of human trafficking in the UK in 2011. By comparison, the National Crime Agency estimate that in the UK, the number of victims of trafficking rose by 22% from 2012 to 2013 and shows an indication of an overall global rise in this area.
The Modern Slavery Act 2015 introduces:
- tougher sentences for traffickers (up to a maximum of life imprisonment)
- creates an independent anti-slavery commissioner
- the right to seize traffickers’ assets and
- the ability for traffickers’ money to be paid to victims by way of compensation.
So how will this affect businesses in the UK?
The Act imposes a new duty on companies that operate in the UK with a global turnover of more than £36 million. It requires them to produce and publish annual slavery and human trafficking statements which may include:
- details of the organisation’s structure, its business and its supply chains
- policies and staff training in relation to slavery and human trafficking
- due diligence processes in relation to slavery and human trafficking in its business and supply chains
- identifying parts of the business at risk from slavery and human trafficking and the steps that have been taken to assesses and manage the risk
Transitional provisions are expected to apply so that statements will not be immediately required if the financial year end of a business is in close proximity to the date on which the Act comes into force.
Large companies will also need to require their suppliers to show that they have appropriate measures in place to safeguard against and address any issues relating to modern slavery and human trafficking. This could be achieved by completing supplier due diligence checks or adding contractual undertakings and mirror obligations in any supplier contract, meaning that the impact of the new Act could be far wider reaching that just the large companies identified above.
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If you operate or are involved in a business that will be caught by the new provisions then you should start to consider:
- what if any parts of the business are covered by the Act
- appointing someone to ensure compliance with the obligations
- whether the business needs to appoint any external advisors to assist with preparing the statement
- introducing a slavery and human trafficking policy along with training for all staff
- reviewing contractual arrangements with suppliers
The Modern Slavery Act is due to come into force in the UK in October 2015 and has been billed as a significant move to address the issues of slavery and human trafficking in the UK. UNICEF Director, David Bull said “The passing of the Modern Slavery Bill into law is an historic moment in the fight against modern slavery and human trafficking. UNICEF UK is proud that the UK has committed to stamping out these horrific crimes and, in particular, to protecting vulnerable children”.
The impact of the Act and its effect on the estimated 12,000 companies caught by the new corporate responsibility and accountability obligations in the UK, remains to be seen but businesses should start to prepare themselves now to avoid any unnecessary exposure.
If you need any further information on this or have any queries please contact Pam at firstname.lastname@example.org. Pam Loch is the Managing Director of niche employment law practice, Loch Associates Employment Lawyers, HR Advise Me and Loch Training.
For more information on Loch Employment Law please go to www.lochlaw.co.uk, for Loch Training go to www.lochtraining.co.uk and HR Advise Me go to www.hradvise.me.