Simon Whitehead, partner at HRC Law LLP is an employment law specialist and has been advising his clients on how to tackle section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act. Talking to EmploymentSolicitor.com, Simon discusses what the top five things employers need to know about this new section of the Modern Slavery Act.
For many, the idea of modern slavery happening will seem completely implausible – can slavery in business really be a problem, in the UK, in 2016? Unfortunately, it is. Estimates of adults and children trapped globally in various forms of modern slavery varies from a conservative figure of 21 million to an upper figure of 36 million.
Whilst the hype surrounding the Act has raised mass awareness of this ethical topic, it is crucial that from a practical perspective businesses know the requirements of the Act in order to achieve full compliance. Here are the key headlines employers must be aware of:
- If a business has a turnover of £36 million globally and carry out their operations in the UK, they will be required to publish an annual statement.
- However, Section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act aims to bring transparency to the whole supply chain and therefore demands that each business takes responsibility for not only their operations, but also the operations of companies who they choose to conduct business with. much smaller companies are likely to be brought into scope of the Act and even though they will not be required to publish a statement, they are likely to be required by businesses they supply to consider their processes for ensuring that modern slavery is not taking place within their business.
- The Act states that affected businesses must publish an annual statement within a reasonable period after the financial year end on their website. The statement must be available to view by the public via a link from the site’s homepage. If the company does not have a website, the statement must exist as a document that can be sent, upon request, to anyone who asks within 30 days.
- The statement doesn’t have to guarantee that there is no modern slavery in the supply chain but must detail the steps the organisation has taken to ensure that modern slavery is not taking place in any of its supply chain or its businesses – or, as may be the case, state that it has not taken any steps.
- The detail of the statement will differ from business to business but consideration must be given to what policies and procedures it has in place, for example, whistleblowing, grievance procedures, bribery policy, ethical trading policies. Businesses should also detail who is responsible for reviewing all the policies and procedures and how frequently it takes place to ensure they remain up-to-date and relevant.