Human trafficking and slavery - how will the Modern Slavery Act 2015 affect your business?

Human trafficking and slavery - how will the Modern Slavery Act 2015 affect your business?

Published:

Author: Helen Burgess & Michael Briggs

Applies to: England, Wales and Scotland

The Modern Slavery Act 2015 consolidates offences relating to human trafficking and slavery in England.

The legislation also places certain obligations upon commercial organisations throughout the UK to ensure their supply chains are slavery free, including a duty to investigate suppliers and intermediaries.

The obligations created under The Act

The Modern Slavery Act 2015 (the Act) consolidates the existing slavery and human trafficking offences into one Act and increases the maximum possible sentence from 14 years to life imprisonment for anyone found to be committing an offence of slavery or human trafficking. Under the Act, 'slavery or human trafficking' includes amongst other things, forced compulsory labour, servitude and trafficking of people for exploitation. The Act also introduces new civil orders in England, so that law enforcement can effectively manage those who pose a risk of causing slavery related harm and also creates a new independent Anti Slavery Commissioner for the UK.

The Act requires UK commercial organisations that supply goods or services and with a turnover of a certain amount or above to prepare a slavery and human trafficking statement (a Statement) each financial year. The financial threshold has not yet been confirmed by the Secretary of State, but after consulting on the question of the threshold level it is expected that this will be confirmed in October 2015.

The Statement is being introduced to encourage better transparency in any business practices which may involve human trafficking or slavery at some stage in the supply chain. It is an organisation's responsibility to ensure that all elements of its supply chain are checked and accounted for, this includes looking into how its suppliers and intermediaries work.

The Statement must outline the steps taken to prevent slavery and human trafficking or merely state that no such steps have been taken at all. As long as there is transparency in what has and has not been done, obligations under the Act will have been fulfilled.

The Statement

Each Statement must be published on the organisation's website and should include the following:

  • Information about the organisation's structure and supply chains
  • Details about the policies in place in relation to slavery and human trafficking
  • An outline of the due diligence process in place in relation to slavery and human trafficking within the business and its supply chains
  • An identification of the parts of its business and supply chains where the business identifies a risk of slavery and/or human trafficking taking place, and the steps it has taken to assess and manage that risk
  • Details of the training given to staff regarding slavery and human trafficking; and
  • An assessment of the organisation's effectiveness in ensuring that slavery and/or human trafficking is not taking place in its business or supply chains

What does this all mean for employers?

All organisations that supply goods or services should ensure that they are communicating with their suppliers and intermediaries to ensure that their supply chains are free of human trafficking or slavery. If they do suspect that human trafficking or slavery is taking place, the time to act is now to correct this and implement measures to avoid such risks going forward.

Disclaimer

This document is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given.

About the author

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Helen Burgess

Partner

03700 86 5028

Helen heads the employment team in Nottingham and is well-versed in the specialist area of employment / labour law, advising HR professionals, in-house counsel, directors and managers on human resource and employment law issues. She has particular experience of TUPE advice, tribunals, business immigration, collective and union issues, whistle blowing, settlement agreements & terminations and executive appointment & exits.

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