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United Kingdom | Effective: 2015

UK Modern Slavery Act

The Act’s provisions place an obligation on companies to prepare an annual modern slavery and human trafficking statement – if they carry on a business or are part of a business in the UK and their turnover rate (or the turnover rate of a parent company and its subsidiaries) is at least £36 million per year.

What to include in the statement?

Companies need to outline the steps they have taken during the financial year to ensure that no form of involuntary labor occurs in their supply chains or in any parts of their businesses – or to publish a statement that they have taken no such steps. The Act doesn’t dictate the format or content of the statements but offers general guidance on what information should be included:

  1. The organization’s structure, including its activities and supply chains
  2. Its policies regarding modern slavery and human trafficking
  3. Its relevant due diligence processes
  4. Those parts of its business and supply chains where there’s a risk of modern slavery and human trafficking and the steps it has taken to address that risk
  5. Its effectiveness in ensuring that no form of forced labor is taking place in its business or supply chains
  6. The relevant training available to its staff

Public scrutiny is involved

Covered organizations must publish their statements on their website, with a prominent link to the statement on the homepage.

While it’s not a criminal offense, and there’s no financial penalty for failure to publish the statement, the UK Secretary of State has the power to seek an injunction requiring organizations to comply. In reality, the practical effect of this power is to create negative publicity.

The proposed changes

The UK government outlined plans to reform the Modern Slavery Act to increase the accountability of the companies and other organizations to prevent modern slavery in their operations and supply chains by introducing civil punishments for those not discharging their duties. If the amendment bill is adopted, reporting requirements would extend to public entities, and law enforcement agencies would have stronger tools to protect the victims of modern slavery and bring perpetrators to justice.

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