Outline of the Modern Slavery Act 2015
The Modern Slavery Act 2015 requires any organisation with a turnover of £36 million or more to publish a statement on the steps it has taken to ensure that its business and supply chains are slavery free, or a statement that no steps have been taken to do this. The statement must be signed by a senior executive, updated annually within 6 months of year end and published on its website with a link from the front page.
In September 2020, the Government responded to a consultation regarding changes to the rules on Modern Slavery Statements and indicated that planned changes would be made law as soon as parliamentary time allows. Specifically, the new regulations will bring public sector bodies within the requirements for the first time, provided their budgets exceed £36M.
Other planned changes, applicable to all organisations in scope, include:
- The content of the statement will become mandatory. It is not yet clear whether this mandatory content will be exactly the same as the recommended areas currently specified in Annex E of the statutory guidance, published in April 2020, or if it will be amended, or expanded;
- Rather than being aligned to the organisation’s own financial year, the Modern Slavery Statement will have to cover the period from 1 April to 31 March and organisations must meet a reporting deadline of 30 September each year;
- Statements will be published on a government run reporting service (similar to gender pay reporting service), as well as the organisation’s own website;
- The government is also considering the appropriate civil penalties for non-compliance (i.e. monetary penalties) and will consider this alongside the development of a proposed single enforcement body for employment rights (subject to Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy-BEIS consultation).
Although the proposed changes are not yet enshrined in law, if the legislation passes before this summer, the first new mandatory reporting date could be as early as 30 September 2021.
Public Sector bodies
To lead the way for the public sector, the UK government published its own Modern Slavery Statement in March 2020 which assesses the risk of modern slavery within approximately £50 billion of its annual spending. Within the accompanying press statement it was indicated that individual ministerial departments will publish their Modern Slavery Statements from 2020/21, which implies they will have to meet the 30 September 2021 reporting deadline.
The relevant Procurement Policy Note provides further guidance for public procurement officers, which is broadly summarised as follows:
- In-Scope Organisations must use the guidance Tackling Modern Slavery in Government Supply Chains to identify and manage risks in both existing contracts and new procurement activity.
- They must ensure relevant procurement, commercial and front-line staff receive awareness training on how to identify modern slavery, and steps to tackle it effectively, including reporting it through appropriate channels.
- They should make the relevant staff, along with the staff of the supplier, aware of the Modern Slavery Helpline, tel: 08000 121 700 or online: www.modernslaveryhelpline.org.
Organisations that are already in scope for the Modern Slavery Act should review their processes for managing the risk of modern slavery in their supply chain. This should be done by ensuring alignment to the statutory guidance, aiming for improved effectiveness in identifying, and addressing, modern slavery risks through robust policies, along with staff training and transparent reporting. Modern Slavery Statements should be updated to reflect any changes and prepared in accordance with the new reporting date 30 September.
Public sector organisations, which will be brought into scope by the new obligation on public sector organisations, should prepare to comply by 30th September 2021 by following the guidance contained in Tackling Modern Slavery in Government Supply Chains.
Acclaro can support on the development of modern slavery policies and processes.
There are a number of free and fee-based training resources available including:
- The International Labour Organisation (ILO) handbook for employers and businesses to combat forced labour.
- A free eLearning suite on Protecting Human Rights in the Supply Chain, developed especially for public procurement practitioners
- The Ethical Trading Initiative offers courses on Buying Responsibly and an advanced course on Human Rights Due Diligence
- Unseen and the Modern Slavery Helpline can provide CPD accredited training to public bodies on modern slavery.
- For additional training materials, the Home Office has a dedicated modern slavery training
BY TRACEY TRAWLING CHURCH