Modern Slavery: what does it mean for SMEs?

Modern Slavery: what does it mean for SMEs?


Author: Ron Reid

Applies to: UK wide

Contrary to expectations SMEs are finding that they are affected by the Modern Slavery Transparency Supply Chain provisions because they are required to give assurances to those they supply that they comply with the Modern Slavery Act 2015.

Who is caught?

Under the Modern Slavery Act 2015 commercial organisations, supplying goods or services, with a turnover of £36 million or above must to publish an annual statement setting out what they are doing to ensure that there is no modern slavery both in their own organization and in any of their supply chains. The turnover calculation includes those organisations that are only carrying out part of their business in the UK, as well as including the turnover of foreign subsidiaries, so supply chains can be complex particularly as services are caught as well as goods.

Transitional provisions provide that organisations with a financial year-end from 29 October up to and including 30 March 2016 will not be required to make a slavery and human trafficking statement for the financial year 2015/16.

Organisations with a financial year-end of 31 March 2016 will be required to publish a slavery and human trafficking statement for the financial year 2015/16 within 6 months of their financial year-end.

We have previously reported on the provisions. Click here for more information.

Why does the Modern Slavery Act 2015 affect SMEs?

Enquiries from larger companies

SMEs are affected because they form part of the supply chain of larger companies who are caught by the provisions. SMEs are being asked to give assurances to the larger companies that their supply chains are free of modern slavery and human trafficking in order that the larger companies can complete their risk assessment and publish their statement

Tenders, new contracts and contract renewals

Tender documentation now routinely includes questions about Modern Slavery Act compliance and associated policies irrespective of the turnover of the company being invited to tender.

Similarly, when new contracts and contracts are being renewed, anti-slavery clauses are being included as part of Modern Slavery Act 2015 compliance.

SMEs must be able to point to relevant policies and procedures if they want to win the tender and/or be awarded the contract and continue doing business with the larger company. They risk losing business if they are unable to do so.

The race to the top to drive up standards includes everyone.

For advice on Modern Slavery Act compliance, please contact Ron Reid on 03700 86 8471 or Jos Kirkwood on 03700 86 8347


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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Ronald Reid


03700 868471

Ron is a consultant with Shoosmiths having previously headed the regulatory & compliance team advising clients on non contentious matters as well as those facing investigation or prosecution for breaches of regulatory legislation. He has considerable experience of crisis management. He has over 40 years' experience including having prosecuted complex matters on behalf of the Health and Safety Executive giving him considerable insight into the enforcement process and the major causes of prosecution.

Ron also formed part The Law Society Steering Group on the Modern Slavery Act practice note and spoke alongside Kevin Hyland, OBE, at the Law Society on the 6th December 2016.

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