REUTERS | Ajay Verma

Modern Slavery: are you at risk of being named and shamed?

The Government is concerned that many organisations are still failing to meet their basic legal obligations when it comes to tackling modern slavery in supply chains.

They stepped up the pressure towards the end of 2018, with the Home Office writing directly to chief executives of 17,000 organisations with a general warning that ‘continued non-compliance’ will not be tolerated’. The organisations were urged to publish their  modern slavery statement, if reporting for the first time or otherwise, by 31 March 2019.

Not doing so, for those obliged to make this statement, means running the risk of inclusion in a publicly available list of non-compliance; thus being ‘named and shamed’.

Reporting requirement: a reminder

Section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 (MSA) came into force on 29 October 2015. It requires certain organisations with an annual turnover of over £36 million carrying on a business in the UK to publish a slavery and human trafficking statement.

The requirement applies to commercial organisations, charities, educational institutions, franchisee models and group companies. Guidance on whether your organisation is included, and what should be reported, can be found in our Modern Slavery Act 2015 Toolkit and Modern Slavery Act 2015: slavery and human trafficking statement.

General state of reporting

In the third year of reporting since the MSA came into force, the Government recognises that there are many examples of good statement practice but also estimates that:

  • 40% of organisations obliged to report have failed to publish a statement.
  • Of the 60% that have reported, some of the statements:
    • do not meet the requirements of the MSA.
    • are deemed to be poor in quality.
    • are not sufficiently demonstrating year on year improvement around the controls in place.

What does this mean?

Firstly, for those that fall under the reporting requirement, review and consider the timing of the publication of your next (or first ever) modern slavery statement if you want to make this deadline.

Secondly, there is a continuing challenge in ensuring the ‘quality’ of the statement as a result of the lack of prescription in both the MSA and related home office guidance.

One of the best means for now to avoid falling into the Government deemed ‘published but not adequate’ box is benchmarking. A useful tool in this exercise is the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre Register of Modern Slavery Statements. Further guidance on this benchmarking exercise and direction to other relevant resources can also be found in Alice Southall’s Blog, Benchmarking your Modern Slavery statement: race to the top.

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