Modern Slavery Act 2015

UK Government
The Modern Slavery Act gives law enforcement the tools to fight modern slavery, ensure perpetrators can receive suitably severe punishments for these appalling crimes and enhance support and protection for victims.

The Modern Slavery Act 2015 came into force in the UK in March 2015. The act will: consolidate and simplify existing offences into a single act; ensure that perpetrators receive suitably severe punishments for modern slavery crimes (including life sentences); enhance the court’s ability to put restrictions on individuals where it’s necessary to protect people from the harm caused by modern slavery offences; create an independent anti-slavery commissioner to improve and better coordinate the response to modern slavery; introduce a defence for victims of slavery and trafficking; place a duty on the secretary of state to produce statutory guidance on victim identification and victim services; enable the secretary of state to make regulations relating to the identification of and support for victims; make provision for independent child trafficking advocates; introduce a new reparation order to encourage the courts to compensate victims where assets are confiscated from perpetrators; enable law enforcement to stop boats where slaves are suspected of being held or trafficked; require businesses over a certain size to disclose each year what action they have taken to ensure there is no modern slavery in their business or supply chains.

A Transparency in Supply Chains clause in the UK Modern Slavery Act requires organisations to report on the processes and due diligence taken to ensure that their supply chains are slavery free.

This ‘Transparency in Supply Chains’ clause requires organisations with a worldwide turnover of £36m or more and that have a ‘demonstrable’ presence in the UK to produce and publish a slavery and human trafficking statement each financial year ending on or after 31 March 2016. The statement is a summary of the steps the organisation has taken during the financial year to ensure that slavery and human trafficking is not taking place in any part of its business or its supply chains. A statement needs to be published regardless of whether any steps have been taken or not. While a disclosure stating that the company does nothing to prevent such practices is legally compliant under the law, such a disclosure can leave a company susceptible to negative publicity from customers and human rights organisations. The guidance document was updated in October 2017.

Home Office guidance on Modern Slavery statements. Autumn 2017. Updated March 2019.
The Home Office released an updated version of its guidance for companies on the content of statements published under the Modern Slavery Act 2015 in autumn 2017. The guidance has been revised to include a slightly firmer approach. In terms of content, the previous guidance stated that companies ‘may’ include the suggested items set out in the Act (structure, policies, due diligence processes etc), whereas the Home Office now states that organisations ‘should aim to’ include the said content. While there are no plans for the government to monitor Modern Slavery reports, the updated guidance reminds companies that they are under external scrutiny. The new Home Office guidance also includes some additions in relation to how organisations should update their statements:

  • The guidance has a more definitive language advising organisations to publish statements within six months of the organisation’s financial year end.
  • The guidance also suggests that organisations should keep statements from previous years available online even when new statements are published, in order to allow for comparison and progress year on year.
  • It further encourages organisations to continue to publish a MSA statement even if their turnover falls under the £36million turnover threshold for a particular financial year, in order to demonstrate to the public and investors the importance of transparency to the organisation.
  • Refreshed guidance on modern slavery statements was published in March 2019. UK government published new refreshed guidance to support organisations’ in writing their annual modern slavery statements. The guidance covers: what to include in a modern slavery statement; best practice; and signposts to further resources and guidance.

UK Modern Slavery Act review published. May 2019.
Frank Field MP, Maria Miller MP and Baroness Butler-Sloss published the final report of their independent review of the Modern Slavery Act 2015. Working with an expert panel, the review specifically considered four parts of the Act including Section 54 ‘transparency in supply chains’. The panel’s recommendations include: a central repository for statements, sanctions for non-compliance and extending Section 54 to include the public sector. The Government responded in July 2019.

Guidance published for UK government on procurement and modern slavery. 18 September 2019.
The Cabinet Office published its Procurement Policy Note (PPN) and guidance on addressing modern slavery risks in existing and new procurement activity. This new guidance applies to all central government departments, executive agencies and non-departmental public bodies. The Procurement Policy Note sets out how UK Government departments must take action to ensure modern slavery risks are identified and managed in government supply chains.

UK government modern slavery statement. 26 March 2020.
To lead the way for the public sector, the UK government has published its own statement which assesses the risk of modern slavery across around £50bn of its annual spending. The statement sets out the government’s efforts towards eradicating modern slavery from its supply chains, including direct engagement with around 400 suppliers and delivering training to over 250 government commercial staff.

Significance for seafood businesses: 

This is mandatory reporting. General legislation but would affect seafood companies in the UK and their suppliers.

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