Today, 18 October, is Anti-Slavery Day.

Created by an Act of Parliament in 2010, Anti-Slavery Day is marked on the 18 October each year in the UK to raise awareness of modern slavery and trafficking and to encourage vigilance.

Slavery is something often not associated with modern Britain, with many individuals and businesses of the view that it does not happen here. In reality, slavery and trafficking is taking place on an increasingly large scale with an estimated 13,000 people held in slavery in the UK. Sometimes businesses are involved with slavery and trafficking, directly or indirectly, without even realising it.

In 2015 the Modern Slavery Act was introduced in the UK in an attempt to combat modern slavery. The Act has had a considerable impact upon businesses within the UK, strengthening the penalties for those involved and introducing a new requirement for certain businesses to produce a Modern Slavery Statement each year.

We have chosen this important day to provide you and your business with some useful guidance on Modern Slavery Statements, including a downloadable template statement. 

Key Facts

  • On 26 March 2015 the Modern Slavery Act 2015 (The Act) was passed in the UK, in an effort to consolidate existing legislation covering the offences of slavery and human trafficking.
  • The Act has introduced new offences and strengthened existing penalties.
  • The offences under the act are slavery, servitude and forced compulsory labour (s.1), human trafficking (s.2), and the intention of committing human trafficking (s.4).
  • Section 54 of the Act entitled ‘Transparency in Supply Chains etc.’ is a key provision in the Act affecting businesses of certain size and type. This document sets out the requirement under Section 54, how this may affect your business and how to ensure your business is compliant.

What is slavery and human trafficking?

  • Slavery is defined as ownership over a person.
  • Servitude is where a person is coerced into to performing compulsory labour.
  • Forced labour is where a person is forced to do work that they have not agreed to.
  • Human trafficking ifs where a person arranges or facilitates the travel of another person with a view to the exploitation of that person.

Does the ‘Transparency in Supply Chains’ provision (Section 54) apply to our business?

The provision applies to commercial organisations:

  • Carrying on a business or part of a business in the UK;
  • Supplying goods or services; and
  • With a total turnover of more than £36m (to include the turnover of any subsidiaries).

It applies: what do we need to do?

Companies to whom Section 54 applies must prepare a ‘slavery and human trafficking statement’ each financial year, detailing the steps taken it has taken during that year to ensure that slavery and human trafficking is not taking place within any part of its business or its supply chains. If the organisation has taken no such steps, a statement must still be made in order to disclose this.

Mandatory requirements Suggestions
The statement must be published on the company’s website, with a prominent link from the homepage.

There is no prescribed layout or specific content of the statement, but the Act suggests that information as to the following may be included:

  • The organisation’s structure, its business and its supply chains;
  • Its policies in relation to slavery and human trafficking;
  • Its due diligence processes in relation to slavery and human trafficking in its business and supply chains;
  • The parts of its business and supply chains where there is a risk of slavery and human trafficking taking place, and the steps taken to assess and manage that risk;
  • Its effectiveness in ensuring that slavery and human trafficking is not taking place in its business or supply chains, measured against such performance indicators as it considers appropriate; and
The training about slavery and human trafficking available to its staff.

The statement must be approved and signed by an appropriate senior person in the organisation:

  • A body corporate other than an LLP:- the statement must be approved by the board of directors and signed by a director;
  • An LLP:- the statement must be approved by the members and signed by a designated member;
  • A Limited Partnership:- the statement must be signed by a general partner;
Any other kind of partnership:- the statement must be signed by a partner.
 
Where the activities of a subsidiary form part of a parent organisation’s supply chain or business the parent (if required to publish a statement) should include the steps taken in relation to the subsidiary. If the subsidiary meets the criteria in its own right then it must produce its own statement.  Parent companies are permitted to prepare a single statement to be published by each affected member of its group, setting out the steps taken by each.
Where a foreign parent is carrying on a business or part of a business in the UK, it will be required to produce a statement.  

The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) has developed a central register of statements, with each statement accessible through BHRRC’s website. This is a good benchmarking tool for organisations yet to publish statements and is available here. Included at the bottom of this briefing note is a template slavery and human trafficking statement which may also be a useful starting point.

Is there a time limit?

Government guidance indicates that an organisation should publish its statement as soon as reasonably practicable after the end of its financial year, and at the latest within 6 months of that date.  Businesses with a financial year-end of 31 March 2016 must publish its statement by 30 September 2016 in order to meet this ‘deadline.’

Common mistakes

A report referred to by BHRRC highlighted that the following are common errors with statements:

  • The statement had not been signed by a named person;
  • The statement had not been clearly identified on the website’s homepage or the statement was located elsewhere on the website with no link from the homepage;
  • The statement had not included sufficient information, in particular with regard to risk assessment processes, priority risk areas, and key performance indicators.

Consequences of failure to publish a statement

There are currently no fines for failing to publish a statement, with the government relying on the potential reputational damage such a failure could cause as deterrence for non-compliance. A Court injunction may however be brought against an organisation failing to comply with the requirement.

Have there been any cases?

Yes- in January 2016 the first reported conviction of an individual under the Act occurred. Mohammed Rafiq, owner of UK bed-making business “Kozee Sleep” was convicted of conspiracy to traffic and jailed for 2 years and 3 months. The men he trafficked were working up to 16 hours a day, often 7 days a week with little or no wages. Kozee Sleep supplied mattresses to companies such as John Lewis and Dunlem.

Other punishments include fines, confiscation of assets, forfeiture of any vehicle used or intended to be used in connection with the offence, an order to pay compensation to the victim (Reparation Order), and other prohibitions e.g. upon foreign travel.

About the author

Ian Besant Consultant

Ian advises on the full range of employment law issues as well as conducting his own advocacy before the Employment Tribunal and has particular expertise in Employment Appeal Tribunal cases.