There has been much in the press recently about modern day slavery and in some work places the risks are much higher. For those who watch Coronation Street (I’m an addict!) we recently saw a story line involving Underworld (the knicker factory) and a supplier holding a young Polish housekeeper enslaved and kept under duress.
There are more stories of slavery unfolding all the time and some horrific circumstances under which some people are expected to work, for the unscrupulous boss.
Before we get carried away, let’s just note that the new requirement to publish a statement on slavery and trafficking only currently applies to an organisation with a turnover of £36m or more.
Under the Act, large commercial organisations which carry out business in the UK are required to publish a slavery and human trafficking statement for each financial year ending on or after 31 March 2016.
Who does the new Modern Slavery Act apply to?
This applies to any business which conducts its business within the UK, regardless of whether they are incorporated or headquartered inside or outside of the UK.
The business must also have a turnover of £36 million or more. For this purpose, turnover includes the turnover of its subsidiaries even if they operate outside of the UK. It is calculated after deduction of trade discounts, value added tax and other taxes.
What should the statement include?
A qualifying commercial organisation will do one of two things when writing their statement:
1. Disclose what steps the organisation has taken to ensure that human trafficking and slavery is not taking places in their supply chain or business.
2.State that it has not taken any such steps.
Structure of the Modern Slavery Act 2015
There is no set format for the statement, but the Act suggests that the following are included:
- The organisation’s structure, its business and its supply chains;
- Its policies in relation to slavery and human trafficking;
- Its due diligence processes in relation to slavery and human trafficking in its business and supply chains;
- The parts of its business and supply chains where there is a risk of slavery and human trafficking taking place, and the steps it has taken to assess and manage that risk;
- Its effectiveness in ensuring that slavery and human trafficking is not taking place in its business and supply chains, measured against such performance indicators as it considers appropriate;
- The training about slavery and human trafficking available to its staff.
Publication of the statement
The statement must be published on the organisation’s website. If the organisation does not have a website, it must make versions of the statement available to anyone who makes a written request for it within 30 days of the request.
If the organisation has multiple websites, the statement must be published on the websites relating to the organisation’s UK business.
The Home Office provides commercial organisations with guidance on this and says that a commercial organisation:
- Is expected to publish the statement as soon as reasonably practicable after the end the financial year.
- May decide to publish the statement alongside its annual or non-financial reports.
- Is encouraged to report within six months of the financial year end to which the statement relates.
Before the statement is published, the commercial organisation must gain approval from the relevant body within that organisation. If the organisation is a company, the statement must be approved by the board and signed by a director.
What if the organisation fails to comply?
If the organisation does not comply with its obligation to publish the statement, the court may take out an injunction in order to compel the organisation to comply. The organisation will then be in contempt of court if it still does not publish the statement and may receive a fine.
If an organisation fails to publish this statement, it risks damage to its reputation and brand as it appears to have failed to take action to prevent human trafficking and slavery within its operation.
For more information on the Modern Slavery Act or any any aspect of HR and Employment Law contact our expert advisors on 0114 3032300 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.