Irwin Mitchell Makes Warning As Man Arrested And 11 Potential Victims Safeguarded After Anti-Slavery Operation
News yesterday that a National Crime Agency investigation has led to a 49-year-old man arrested on suspicion of modern slavery offences within the construction industry, with 11 potential victims safeguarded, emphasises how crimes concerning modern slavery are growing higher on the government’s crack-down agenda.
According to Craig Weston, of Irwin Mitchell, property and construction businesses need to be careful about who they use to source their labour and “ensure they have robust systems and controls in place to make sure they are not facilitating the kind of behaviour”
He added: “In particular they should not create a need for labour but then turn a blind eye and not ask questions.”
Irwin Mitchell says the situation has become even more pertinent because businesses now have only until Sunday 31 March 2019 to publish their Modern Slavery Statement or risk appearing on a published list of non-compliant organisations, according to a letter from the Home Office, who wrote to 17,000 chief executives.
The law firm has estimated that only 60% of businesses have published a Statement, but many of these are poor quality or fail to meet basic legal requirements.
This new requirement comes as the government looks to tackle slavery and human trafficking taking place in businesses and their supply chains. Although only businesses with a turnover of more than £36 million need to publish a Statement, other companies in their supply chain are likely to be asked what they are doing to tackle modern slavery – and here good supply chain governance here is key.
To keep companies off the list of non-compliant organisations, Irwin Mitchell recommends that businesses review their existing approach to Modern slavery and in particular their Modern Slavery Act supply chain statements. They should aim to publish the statement within six months of financial year end and as a minimum, all statements must be:
• updated every year
• published on the UK website of the business with a link in a prominent place on the homepage
• approved by the board with the date of board approval indicated in the statement
• signed by a director (or equivalent) with a note of the signatory's name, job title and date of signature
The statement should set out the steps that the business has taken to ensure that slavery and human trafficking are not taking place in the business itself or in its supply chains.
Best practice is also to include commentary on the following six areas:
• structure and supply chains
• policies on modern slavery
• due diligence processes
• risk assessment
• measuring effectiveness
• training for staff
Minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability Victoria Atkins has said: “It is horrible to think some of the goods and services we buy could have been produced by someone forced into modern slavery. This is abhorrent and as global leaders in the fight against modern slavery, we will not tolerate it. Some businesses are already leading the way in taking action by being open and transparent about what they are doing to identify, tackle and prevent forced labour in their supply chains, but too many are still failing to meet their basic legal obligations. That’s why the Home Office is sending letters to businesses today with a clear message that continued non-compliance will not be tolerated.”
Craig Weston of Irwin Mitchell’s Regulatory Investigations Group added” The message for property and construction companies is clear. Make sure you get your house in order to prevent facilitating Modern slavery and make sure you report your steps thoroughly and in time to meet the deadline. The Government has shown it is stepping up its vigilance against such Modern Slavery and companies should avoid being defamed by default or not getting their act together to state their procedures in time.”