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Modern Slavery Act 2015: guidelines for slavery and human trafficking statements published

21.12.2015 Maritime

Since the publication of Ince & Co’s article “Modern Slavery Act 2015 – why shipowners need to pay attention” (in the Autumn 2015 Shipping E-Brief), the government has released guidance intended to assist compliance, entitled “Transparency in Supply Chains etc. A Practical Guide”. This update examines that guidance and provides a reminder of the key points for the shipping industry and related companies.

The Guidance

One question raised by the Modern Slavery Act (the “Act”) was which organisations would be deemed to be “carrying on a business or part of a business” in the UK (a precondition of the obligation to publish a slavery and human trafficking statement). The guidance leaves some uncertainty on this question, as it states that “a common sense approach” will be taken. It does, however, clarify that an overseas parent company with a subsidiary in the UK will not automatically be required to publish a statement.

The guidance is much clearer about the deadline for compliance. This will depend on when the financial year of a relevant organisation ends. Companies whose financial year ends on 31 March will be the first to have to publish statements. The actual deadline for compliance is not prescribed, but the guidelines “encourage” publication of a statement within six months of the end of the financial year.

The guidance contains a number of accessible and practical annexes designed to help organisations produce their statements. These include:

> examples of the application of the Act to different group company structures;

> an examination of the overlap between compliance under the Act and other reporting obligations; and

> practical guidance on both how to draft a statement and how to conduct due diligence in relation to modern slavery.

Key points for you

> Organisations with a turnover of over £36 million that conduct part or all of their business in the UK will need to publish slavery and human trafficking statements – which must be placed in a prominent position on their homepages. 

> Starting on 31 March 2016, companies should publish their statements within six months of the end of their financial years.

> The required content and structure of statements is not set out in detail, but a failure to provide sufficient detail may attract negative publicity.

> Failure to  publish any statement at all may prompt the secretary of state to apply to the courts for an order compelling publication. Failing to comply with such an order could lead to an unlimited fine for contempt of court.

> Separately from the requirement to publish statements, shipowners may be at risk of having their vessels confiscated if they are used for human trafficking, a risk covered in greater detail in our first article.

Article authors:

Kevin Cooper, Olivia Murray and Martin Laughton