While it is estimated that some 12,000 UK companies are required to publish a statement under Section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act, to date less than 10% have done so.
We can expect to see a flurry of statements within the next few months particularly from those companies whose financial and calendar year end are the same.
A number of Non-Governmental Organisations have been critical of some of the early statements see here.
It is perhaps not surprising that a number of published statements seem to have been used as a template by others, often compliance is being treated as a chore and passed around departments sometimes landing with procurement, human resources or legal.
In house counsel charged to comply have often relied on the PLC template as few others existed.
On 6 December 2016, during Human Rights Week, the Law Society launched its own practice note setting out guidance to all solicitors which also included a template for a draft statement. See here.
Like all precedents these templates make good servants but bad masters.
The government deliberately steered away from including a draft statement in their statutory guidance preferring companies to be open and transparent about their supply chains and their efforts to prevent modern slavery in their own words.
Whilst there is no penalty for non-compliance (other than the government taking out an injunction to enforce publication) the real risk for companies is to their brand in the court of public opinion.
The announcement of proposed benchmarking in a number of industries will all add to the pressure on companies to ensure leadership from the very top on this issue. See here.
However, no one should be in any doubt that the government's current approach in allowing companies freedom to demonstrate compliance in their own way could change. Kevin Hyland, OBE, the UK Anti-Slavery Commissioner, whilst acknowledging that real change will take time, has also made it perfectly clear that future punitive measures for non-compliance have not been ruled out.
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.