Are You Meeting Your Modern Slavery Requirements?
The 2019 UK Annual Report on Modern Slavery published in October has highlighted the government’s increasing drive for compliance with the Modern Slavery Act 2015.
Under S.54 (Transparency in Supply Chains) of the Act, certain commercial organisations are required to publish an annual modern slavery statement if they meet the requisite criteria. These are if the organisation is a ‘body corporate’ or partnership, which carries on its business or part of its business in the UK, supplying goods or services, with a turnover of £36 million or more.
If your organisation meets the criteria, you have a legal obligation to publish an annually updated modern slavery statement.
Despite this requirement, according to Transparency in Supply Chains (TISC) Report and the Modern Slavery Registry , approximately only 75% of in-scope organisations have a compliant modern slavery statement. Those who are persistently non-compliant risk being publicly ‘named and shamed’.
The Home Office has stepped up its activity to engage organisations and prompt their compliance. This is evidenced by the Home Office writing to CEOs of over 17,000 registered in-scope organisations and announcing that it would commence an audit of compliance at the end of the 2018/19 financial year. Further, following an Independent Review of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 , the government committed to a programme which included announcing plans to create a free online central reporting service for businesses’ modern slavery statements and introducing civil penalties for non-compliance. It will not just be those who are completely failing to produce a statement that will be put under pressure.
Modern slavery statements will be exposed to greater governmental and public scrutiny. Your statement, and consequently all of the policies and procedures that support it, will soon be thrust into the spotlight.
Scrutiny by potential customers, business partners and the wider public will demand a more comprehensive, up to date and compliant modern slavery statement. As well as avoiding a humiliating and costly sanction, your compliance may then mean the difference between engagement with a new, current or former customer or supplier, who will have increasing opportunity to dissect your statement and policies. The modern slavery statement would become not only a symbol of the humanistic efforts of your company, but also a potential USP when compared to competitors as a hallmark of the integrity of your business.
This then provides reason for an out-of-scope organisation to publish a modern slavery statement, despite not having a legal requirement to do so. It provides an opportunity to showcase what your organisation is doing to combat modern slavery, with obvious social benefits. Commercially, this would highlight to those throughout the supply chain that you are meeting the minimum legal requirements. Whilst compliance is vital for yourself, other links in the chain are encouraged to ensure all who they deal with also meet the required standards. A modern slavery statement presents your organisation as one primed and ready to be engaged with, removing the need, and therefore cost, for any further investigations on behalf of those looking in.
You must ensure that your statement, policies and procedures are living documents. It is not enough to just have them sat on a shelf, they must be acted upon and regularly updated. In business, standing still can be fatal in an increasingly competitive market place, this should also be translated to your modern slavery statement. You are not only competing to comply with the law, but also competing to distinguish yourself from your competitors.
At Irwin Mitchell, we are able to help you meet these requirements. We can provide a full service whatever your current modern slavery situation. For those starting from scratch, we can provide precedent policies and recommend the correct procedures to instigate. For those in need of reinvigoration, we can review your modern slavery package, producing a report to highlight where improvements can be made and recommending amendments to be made. This can then be conveyed in your modern slavery statement, which we can build, amend, or refresh ready to be showcased.
Ensuring compliance makes sense from a business, social and legal point of view for both in-scope and out-of-scope organisations.
By Dan Brunt, Irwin Mitchell
1 2019 UK Annual Report on Modern Slavery
2 TISC Report and Modern Slavery Registry
3 Independent Review of the Modern Slavery Act 2015