Modern Slavery Act 2015 recent UK initiatives

News / / Modern Slavery Act 2015 recent UK initiatives

On the domestic front, the Home Office published updated guidance in October 2017, explaining how businesses should ensure that they are in compliance with the Act This is particularly topical in light of the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply's findings, in September 2017, that one third of businesses affected by the Act had not prepared a modern slavery statement, in spite of the legal requirement for them to do so This article considers the update to the original 2015 guidance (entitled Transparency in Supply Chains etc A practical guide) and provides a reminder of the key points that should be borne in mind by those working in the shipping industrynbsp The updated guidanceSection 54 of the Act requires businesses that have a global turnover above 36 million and that operate in the UK to produce an annual statement detailing the steps they have taken to ensure that there is no modern slavery in their own business and supply chains The Home Office initially published guidance in 2015 setting out their expectations for such statements The 2017 update aims to drive best practice and to assist organisations in preparing credible and accurate statements It also provides that statements should be published as soon as possible after the financial year end, rather than the previous as soon as reasonably practicable, but there is still no prescribed deadline for compliance The expectation remains that statements should be published within six months after year end Although much of the updated guidance remains unchanged, key points includegtnbspnbspA suggestion that organisations falling below the 36 million turnover threshold may find it helpful to make a voluntary statement if they are bidding for contracts against businesses that have one Such organisations may already be responding to supply chain due diligence queries asking if they have a statement or policy setting out their approach to tackling modern slavery gtnbspnbspAn indication that it is best practice to include in the statement the key items set out in section 54(5) of the Act covering an organisation's structure, policies, due diligence processes, effectiveness of steps taken measured against key performance indicators and training about modern slavery and human traffickinggtnbspnbspA recommendation that the date on which the statement was approved by the board should be included and that the director who signed the statement be on the board providing the approval gtnbspnbspAn indication that organisations should keep historic statements from previous years available online, even when new statements are published This will allow the public to compare statements over the years and monitor the progress of an organisation over time gtnbspnbspThe inclusion in the guidance of a definition of child labour, with reference to International Labour Organisation standardsnbsp Looking ahead - The Modern Slavery (Transparency in Supply Chains) Bill 2017 (the Bill)On 12 July 2017, the first reading of the Bill took place in the House of Lords It was introduced by Baroness Young of Hornsey, but the date of the second reading has not yet been announced The Bill seeks to amend the Act by making further provision for transparency in supply chains in respect of slavery and human traffickingIf it is enacted, key changes to the Act that are of relevance to commercial organisations includegtnbspnbspThe key items in Section 54(5) would no longer be best practice examples of what to include in the statement they would be mandatorygtnbspnbspA requirement that organisations that publish a statement confirming that they have taken no steps to ensure modern slavery and human trafficking is not occurring in any part of their business or supply chains publish the reasons why they have taken no steps gtnbspnbspAn obligation on the Secretary of State to publish a list of all commercial organisations that are required to publish a statement, in a place and format that is easily accessible There is no proposal in the Bill to amend the sanctions for non-compliance with Section 54 of the Act The method of formal enforcement remains the Secretary of State applying for an injunction, an unlikely course of action The threat of adverse publicity, therefore, remains the key consequenceComment The above developments should be noted by shipowners and others providing services to the shipping industry Although much of the updated guidance remains unchanged, it now encourages small organisations to make a statement even if the legislation does not require them to do so There is also a strong emphasis on continuity of statements as well as access to historical statements, so that the adequacy of an organisation's measures can be determined over timenbsp Organisations will need to pay heed to the best practice Section 34(5) requirements, which are likely to become mandatory if the Bill is enacted as it is currently draftednbsp We expect that, in future years, there will be increased scrutiny of key performance indicators Whilst these were not so crucial to an organisation's first year statement, in subsequent years they will likely be a measure by which investors, consumers and the media can determine the effectiveness of the steps taken by an organisation to ensure that there is no slavery or human trafficking in their business or supply chains The focus in the updated guidance on child labour also means that organisations will need to be increasingly wary of the incidence of child labour in their supply chains Finally, if a list is published by the Secretary of State listing all the commercial organisations required to publish a statement under Section 54, that would provide the Government with an easier way of knowing which organisations had failed to comply and strengthen its ability to name and shame them Shipowners should take a prudent and proactive approach in view of the updated guidance and the proposed legislative changes by ensuring that they have complied with the Section 54 requirements to the fullest extent possiblenbspnbspArticle authorDora Costa

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