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How will the Modern Slavery Act 2015 affect your business?

The requirement for many large businesses to prepare an annual slavery and human trafficking statement is expected to come into force in October 2015.

What is it?

The Act’s principal purpose is to consolidate existing legislation relating to slavery, servitude, forced labour and human trafficking.

The section of the Act which will affect most businesses is the requirement to prepare a slavery and human trafficking statement for each financial year.

Where is it up to?

The requirement to prepare an annual statement is expected to come into force in October 2015.

Who does it apply to?

Most of the Act applies to all businesses, and the annual statement requirement applies to those classified as 'large enterprises' (with a turnover of £36 million or above).

Requirement to produce a slavery and human trafficking statement

If your business is classified as a 'large enterprise', you must prepare a slavery and human trafficking statement for each financial year.  The government has stated that this should ensure that businesses cannot 'turn a blind eye' to slavery.

There are no set requirements as to what this statement must contain, but the Act sets out six areas of information that a business may include in its slavery and human trafficking statement:

  • The organisation's structure, business and supply chains.
  • Policies in relation to slavery and human trafficking.
  • 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 any steps that it has 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 key performance indicators.
  • Training about slavery and human trafficking available to its staff.

The government has stated that it will publish further guidance on the statement in October 2015. The statement must be approved by the board and published on the business' website.

What do I need to watch out for?

While the requirement to prepare a statement is enforced by way of injunction, the other parts of the Act create criminal offences. It is possible to commit the offence of human trafficking by 'aiding and abetting'.  At present, there is no guidance on how and when a company may be seen as being part of criminal activity committed by another.  There is a risk that a business may be caught out by failing to prevent human trafficking from infiltrating its supply chain.

What do I need to do?

While the reporting requirement is not expected to come into force until October 2015, you need to start due diligence on the businesses in your supply chain, to assess whether there is a risk that they may be involved in slavery or human trafficking and whether your business could be accused of aiding and abetting them.  Also consider the need to train your staff on these issues, to enable them to spot any risks to your business.

Get in touch with us at modernslaveryenquiries@dwf.co.uk if you have any queries about the implications of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 on your business or need assistance in reviewing any of your current and proposed policies, contracts and training processes.

This information is intended as a general discussion surrounding the topics covered and is for guidance purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. DWF is not responsible for any activity undertaken based on this information.

Get in touch

Should you have any queries about the implications of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 on your business or need assistance in reviewing any of your current and proposed policies, contracts and training processes, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Contact us at modernslaveryenquiries@dwf.co.uk

Craig Chaplin

Partner - National Head of Commercial & Competition

I am a Partner and Head of the Commercial & Competition Team.