The Modern Slavery Act 2015 came into force on 29 October 2015. It consolidates offences relating to slavery and trafficking. S.54 provides that all organisations with a turnover of over £36 million will need to publish a statement each year relating to the action they have taken to ensure that their business and supply chains are slavery free.
However, it’s not just companies with a turnover of over £36 million that need a modern slavery policy. The big companies have to check their suppliers have them, who in turn ask their suppliers and so on, all the way down the line. For this reason, smaller business are now finding they are being asked to provide a copy of their relevant policies when bidding for work or supplying a client within the normal course of their business.
What is it?
Slavery and human trafficking comprises any of the following:
- The offences of slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour and human trafficking
- The traffic in prostitution
- The trafficking for exploitation
- Conduct that would constitute an offence as above if the conduct took place in the UK.
The Home Office has issued guidance on what it would expect to see as part of the requisite statements. They have confirmed statements should be:
- Written in simple language to ensure that it is easily accessible to everyone.
- Succinct but cover all the relevant points and link to relevant publications, documents or policies (as may be relevant in the different types of businesses).
- In English (but may be provided in other languages that are relevant to the supply chain).
The slavery and human trafficking statement must include either a statement:
- Of the steps the organisation has taken during the financial year to ensure that slavery and human trafficking is not taking place in any of its supply chains, and in any part of its own business; or
- That the organisation has taken no such steps.
There is no prescribed form or length requirements for the statement. The slavery and human trafficking statement may include information about:
- The organisation’s structure, business and its supply chains;
- The policies and procedures it has put into place to avoid slavery and human trafficking;
- Its due diligence in relation to its supply chains to ensure they are acting to avoid slavery and human trafficking;
- The parts of its own business and/or supply chains where there is a risk of slavery and human trafficking taking place, and the steps it is taking to assess and manage that risk;
- Its effectiveness in ensuring that slavery and human trafficking is not taking place (measured against such performance indicators as it considers appropriate for its industry);
- The training about slavery and human trafficking available to its staff.
What needs to happen?
Although these provisions have been in force since 2017, commercial organisations with a financial year that ends before 31 March 2016 did not have to make a slavery and human trafficking statement in respect of that financial year. This has meant that the effect of this legislation is only now beginning to be felt by smaller business. As part of these obligations therefore, the larger companies will need to check that their suppliers have a modern slavery policy in place too.
Larger businesses will by now be starting to send out questionnaires to their suppliers (and they to their suppliers and so on). The questionnaire will require copies of a Modern Slavery policy, possibly a Whistleblowing policy and details of training, management and information regarding how the business is run and what each businesses does to ensure they themselves do not fall foul of the laws relating to this. If businesses are not fully prepared, they may find that the larger companies do not want to risk doing business with them until they are. Certainly, any businesses which tender for work will find they need to provide this information as part of the tendering process.
For any assistance with drafting or implementing an Anti-Slavery Policy and associated procedures, please get in touch with:
Head of Employment