Modern Slavery Act 2015 — Seafish

Modern Slavery Act 2015

UK Government
The Modern Slavery Act gives law enforcement the tools to fight modern slavery.

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 is designed to: 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. 

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.

Updated guidance on publishing a modern slavery statement. 11 March 2021.

UK Government has updated its guidance to help identify if an organisation needs to publish an annual modern slavery statement, and its best practice guidelines on producing a statement.

UK Government publishes transparency in supply chains consultation response. 22 September 2020.

A number of changes will be introduced as a result of this consultation, including extending section 54 to public bodies, an online registry for modern slavery statements, a single annual reporting deadline of 30 September and mandatory reporting topics.

Six years on: Modern Slavery Act (MSA) has failed to tackle forced labour. 24 February 2021.

New analysis by the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) concludes the UK MSA has failed in its objective to protect victims of forced labour due to the trifling level of reporting required from companies and lack of government enforcement. Despite non-compliance by 40% of companies, no injunctions or administrative penalties have been issued to companies failing to report. The lack of mandatory reporting has led to companies publishing general statements that do not engage with the risks of modern slavery specific to their sectors and regions of operation. It makes several recommendations. 

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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