UK Modern Slavery Act

Securing your supply chain

The Modern Slavery Act (MSA) is a piece of legislation brought into force on October 2015. It is designed to take action to prevent the exploitation, servitude and trafficking of people who may be forced into working against their will.

 

MSA ties together previous items of legislation and also introduces new penalties relating to vehicle confiscation for human trafficking offences. In addition, it is also designed to encourage companies to take preventative, due diligence measures to combat any potential slavery or forced labour in their own domestic and international supply chains.

 

Section 54 of the Act (see UK government guidance here) requires many businesses to disclose a slavery and human trafficking statement each year.

Who needs to report

Any organisation which has a business or part of a business in the UK which provides goods and services, and has a turnover of £36 million or more, including turnover of subsidiaries. must produce an MSA statement on an annual basis.

 

More detail can be found in section 54 of the Act. Even if your business is not captured in this legislation, voluntary MSA reporting is encouraged, and we note that the Act is set to be expanded in future.

 

Updates to the Modern Slavery Act

 

In the Government response to the Transparency in Supply Chains consultation, published on 22 September 2020, the Home Office committed to changes to strengthen the reporting requirements under section 54 of the Act, including:

 

  • extending the reporting requirement to public bodies with a budget of £36 million or more;
  • mandating the specific reporting topics statements must cover;
  • setting a shared reporting period (1 April – 31 March) with organisations having up to six months to produce their statements on activity during this period and publishing their statements by a single reporting deadline of 30 September; and
  • requiring organisations to publish their statement on the new Government’s Modern Slavery Statement Registry

 

These changes have not yet been implemented, and will require legislative change. The Home Office has committed to engaging with organisations on when the new reporting requirements will come into effect, and will also publish new guidance to support organisations to meet the new requirements. However, in the meantime organisations may choose to align their current reporting with the future reporting requirements.

 

Companies can sign up to the contact database for modern slavery reporting guidance and resources (here) to receive updates on the duty to produce modern slavery statements under the Modern Slavery Act.

Required content of a MSA statement

The statement should set out what steps organisations have taken to ensure modern slavery is not taking place in their business or supply chains.

 

This should include:

  1. Structure, business and supply chains
  2. Policies in relation to slavery and human trafficking
  3. Identification of risks together with steps taken to prevent and manage that risk
  4. Due diligence processes in relation to slavery and human trafficking in business and supply chains
  5. Effectiveness in ensuring that slavery and human trafficking is not taking place in business or supply chains, measured against appropriate KPIs
  6. Training and capacity building about slavery and human trafficking

Addressing modern slavery risks in timber supply chains

There are various guidance and tools available to the timber industry which are free to use for businesses to assess modern slavery-related risks in their supply chains:

 


  1. Sourcing materials with valid certification claims or a FLEGT license

 

  • FSC has incorporated social compliance requirements within the FSC Chain of Custody standards (FSC-STD-40-004 & FSC-STD-20-011). The new requirements cover principles of the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Core Conventions and the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at work (1998). The criteria are auditable and will be applied on all FSC CoC certificate holders. More info on the changes and how can FSC help to mitigate risks of modern slavery along product supply chain.
  • PEFC also embed social criteria in PEFC’s forest management and chain of custody standards based on the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.
  • The FLEGT licensing system also brings reassurance that labour laws are being respected in the timber harvesting and processing supply chain of VPA countries. For example, the EU-Indonesia VPA requires companies to ensure compliance with labour laws and regulations which include criteria on fulfilment of occupational safety and health requirement and workers right.

 

Other steps you can take:

 

  1. Embed ILO core labor standards into supplier code of conduct / supplier contract
  2. Undertake due diligence that address labour rights risks in supply chains
  3. Provide training and awareness raising programme for all relevant staff and suppliers
  4. Report on outcomes

 

Agency workers

 

Timber importers and traders may also have to be aware of the potential risks inherent in hiring contracted agency workers, such as warehouse workers, drivers, cleaners.

 

While these workers are not directly employed by you, they are still covered under the act, and where these employment agencies treat their workers in ways unequal to permanent staff you may find they have breached the Act.

 

Since the mistreatment of agency staff may occur through the agency rather than the company contracting out to the agency, these abuses may be harder to detect.

 

Therefore there is an increased need to establish greater due diligence mechanisms which may help identify and mitigate against such risks when scouting out employment agencies for potential partnerships.

Best practice and other guidance

  1. Global Slavery Index 
  2. Ethical Trading Initiative’s free online step-by-step guide on how to write Modern Slavery Statement, and a tool to evaluate statement’s strengths and weaknesses
  3. CORE: Recommended content for a Modern Slavery Statement
  4. CORE: Modern Slavery Reporting: weak and notable practice 
  5. Stronger Together, a multi-stakeholder initiative providing a free, downloadable best practice toolkit to help support businesses efforts in tackling modern slavery
  6. The Slavery & Trafficking Risk Template (STRT), a self-assessment questionnaire in Excel format with a set of questions designed to facilitate the collection of relevant data and supporting documentation on modern slavery related risks, when applicable, in the supply chain.
  7. For more information, please contact the Modern Slavery Unit, Home Office, ModernSlaveryStatements@homeoffice.gov.uk