21 June 2015 6 min read

The Modern Slavery Act 2015 is designed to consolidate offences, capable of prosecution, into a single act. Introducing various measures to combat slavery and human trafficking, the Act places requirements on businesses to report infringements, encouraging a level of diligence in all dealings within the businesses supply chain.

In this article we’ll look at what The Act actually is, what it means for your business and how you can stay on the right side of the law.

What is it?

With Home Office figures estimating between 10,000 and 13,000 people still remain trapped in slavery in the UK today, The Act has been engineered to fight slavery and human trafficking, narrowing the scope for future offences. With a specific focus given to businesses and their supply chains, similar to the Bribery Act in 2010, the Modern Slavery Act has also been given international reach. Allowing the UK wide-ranging international jurisdiction and powers over companies with a “demonstrable” business presence in the UK. The Act has seen several areas of enforcement strengthened, specifically:

● An increase in the maximum custodial sentence for the most serious offences from 14 years to life;

● Increasing the powers of Police and Border Force agencies when acting on board vessels at sea; and

● The introduction of Prevention and Risk Orders to restrict the activities of individuals who pose a risk of causing harm 

What does this mean for you business and how does it apply to you?

The Modern Slavery Act will apply to any business which:

1. Is based inside or outside the UK and carries out business within it;

2. Has a turnover of more than £36million; and

3. Has a financial year ending on or after 31 March 2016 (companies with a financial year ending before that need not comply with the reporting requirement until the next financial year).

What are the expectations for your business?

Compliance with The Act requires, at the very minimum, businesses to publish an annual statement on their website; detailing the steps you have taken to protect against slavery and human trafficking, in your supply chain and business in the past year.

The statement has been given no rigid format, although it should be “written in simple language that is easily understood” and is advised to contain information on: organisational structure, staff training, supply chains, slavery and human trafficking prevention policies and due diligence processes put in place to protect against such offences.

What are the next steps?

The first step a company should take is to review their risk profile and identify parts of their business and supply chain that are most susceptible to it. You can then tailor your policies and processes accordingly. The requirement of The Act is that the report should be published “as soon as reasonably practicable,” which in line with Government guidance should be no more than 6 months after your financial year end.

Any businesses with a year end after March 31st 2015 will not need to worry about producing a statement until March 2017; if your year end was before the cut off date, then you will be expected to produce one for the current financial year ending in March 2016

The statement should be accessible via your website, with notification of its presence in a prominent location. If you do not have a website, then you should be able to produce the statement upon request, within 30 days.

What will happen if your business does not, or fails to comply?

The Act confers powers on the Secretary of State to seek an injunction from the High Courts requiring you to comply with the legislation. Further noncompliance may result in a contempt of court order, which can carry a hefty fine. Other punitive measures are likely to derive from bad publicity providing greater peer and consumer pressure to comply.

If you’re looking for more information on how to how this may affect your business, and how to go about writing and publishing a statement the Government’s “Transparency in Supply Chains: A Practical Guide” might also be helpful.

The contents of this article are intended solely for information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or financial advice or opinion in any specific facts or circumstances.

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Ryan Lisk

Ryan has helped a vast number of businesses protect and control their intellectual property as well as drafting and advising on consumer and commercial contracts.

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