Are you aware of your personal obligations and liabilities under the Modern Slavery Act 2015 (“The Act”)?
The Act creates criminal liabilities for individuals and civil liabilities for businesses.
One of the important aspects of The Act is that it is directed at criminal liabilities of individuals who not only commit offences themselves but also those who know or ought to know of the commission of an offence by another.
The Act has been deliberately widely drafted to encompass those who have responsibility for the oversight of business responsibilities. This relates to all businesses with a turnover of more than £36 million per annum. As a business, you are required to report annually about the action you are taking to ensure that your supply chains are free from human trafficking, forced labour and other forms of human exploitation.
The investigation into potential breaches of legislation is within the public domain and the effects can be immediate and significant to the business concerned. For example, under similar legislation in the USA, a company’s share price fell by 10% wiping $75M off the value of the company on the news of an allegation relating to forced labour within their supply chain.
Breaches of The Act can carry sentences for individuals of up to 10 years or life imprisonment depending on the offence committed. In addition to prison sentences, the Court has the power to confiscate assets, obtain property and to prevent foreign travel.
Reform Chambers are able to assist you by consulting with your compliance team and we can train and advise your staff in best practice to:
- maximise your chance of compliance;
- minimise your risks of non‑compliance;
- advise you on the implementation of effective policies and management systems and contribute to supply chains’ sustainability, mitigating risk and avoiding potential legal liabilities and reputational damage.
Every year businesses have to produce a slavery and human trafficking statement for the financial year which must be posted on your company’s website with a link to your statement displayed in a prominent place on the website. You must disclose the steps that you have taken to ensure that your supply chains are slavery free or make a statement disclosing that no such steps have been taken.
Your statement must be approved by the board of directors and signed off by a director (or equivalent). Anyone who is responsible for the preparation or approval of such a statement is obviously at serious risk of being attributed with imputed knowledge of any failings within the supply chain.
What is your business doing to ensure compliance with the Act?
The following is a non-exhaustive list of matters that need to be considered and that we can assist you with:
- What actions have you taken to evaluate and address the risks of forced labour, slavery, human trafficking and child labour within your supply chains?
- What policies have you put in place to identify and eliminate risks of forced labour, slavery, human trafficking and child labour within your supply chains and what actions have you taken in relation in relation to such policies?
- How will you ensure that audits of suppliers within your supply chains are conducted to investigate working conditions and labour practices?
- How will you verify that your suppliers have systems in place to identify the risks of forced labour, slavery, human trafficking and child labour within their own supply chains?
- How will you manage your suppliers to ensure that the manufacture of your products and the recruitment of labour are carried out in compliance with applicable legislation regarding forced labour, slavery, human trafficking and child labour?
- Have you evaluated the potential commercial and personal damage of non-compliance with the Act including the potential for lengthy prison sentences being received by senior staff held responsible for nom-compliance?
The Anti-Slavery Commissioner who conducts these investigations has been given wide resources and powers to ensure that the Act is enforced. He/she has the power to require public authorities such as Police Forces, the National Crime Agency and Immigration Officers to co-operate with their purposes.
We can assist you to ensure that you are compliant by providing training, raising awareness and advising you as to your responsibilities, thus mitigating risk and avoiding potential legal liabilities and reputational damage.