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The Government has confirmed that it is going ahead with major changes to the duty on large employers to publish an annual modern slavery statement.
What are the current rules?
- The duty to produce a modern slavery statement currently applies to commercial organisations with a total turnover of at least £36 million per year. This threshold will remain the same.
- The Modern Slavery Act 2015 states that a Modern Slavery Statement "may" include the following areas of information about an organisation’s:
- Area 1: structure, business and supply chains;
- Area 2: policies in relation to slavery and human trafficking;
- Area 3: due diligence processes in relation to slavery and human trafficking in its business and supply chains;
- Area 4: business parts and supply chains where there is a risk of slavery and human trafficking taking place, and the steps it has taken to assess and manage that risk;
- Area 5: effectiveness in ensuring that slavery and human trafficking is not taking place in its business or supply chains, measured against performance indicators that it considers appropriate; and
- Area 6: training about slavery and human trafficking available to its staff.
- There are no particular enforceable timelines for when an organisation must publish its statement.
- Currently, employers must publish the modern slavery statement on their website and include a link to the statement in a prominent place on the homepage.
What are the changes?
The Government has confirmed that it is going ahead with a number of changes that will apply in England, Wales and Scotland. These include:
- bringing large public-sector organisations in England and Wales within the scope of the duty to produce a modern slavery statement;
- mandating the areas that a modern slavery statement must cover (rather than the areas to cover being recommendations only) – although there may be tweaks made to the 6 areas currently listed;
- introducing a single reporting period and annual reporting deadline for all employers covered (the statement will have to cover the period from 1 April to 31 March. There will be a single annual reporting deadline of 30 September); and
- requiring employers to publish their statement on a Government-run reporting website.
When are the changes coming?
The Government is expected to publish updated guidance for employers on the new requirements. There is no date yet for when these changes will take effect, with amending legislation due to be brought forward "when parliamentary time allows".
What can employers do to prepare?
- Where your organisation is already covered by the legislation, review the structure of your modern slavery statement to ensure that the six reporting areas are already covered where relevant.
- Where you expect your organisation to be covered when the legislation is changed, collate the steps your organisation takes in relation to the six reporting areas. This should make drafting your first modern slavery statement easier when the time comes.
- If you find an area where your organisation takes no steps, use this as an opportunity to think about why this is and whether or not this needs to be remedied.
- If there is a particular reason why no steps are taken in a particular area, be prepared to explain why when drafting your modern slavery statement.
Why is this important?
Even if your organisation isn’t caught by the legislation, you might be required by a supplier, customer or client to have a statement in place, or you may simply consider it important to have one – particularly if you operate in a business area where modern slavery is known to be an issue.
Making clear what steps are being taken to tackle modern slavery can enhance your organisation's reputation and contribute to your Corporate Responsibility Programme.
If you need further advice on changes to Modern Slavery statements call us now for a friendly chat about your needs.