While the term ‘slavery’ may evoke images of a bygone era, recent shifts in the UK’s immigration policy have threatened to discriminate against and criminalise vulnerable groups of people, notably migrant workers, and escalating the potential of modern slavery, according to The Global Slavery Index.

In 2022, the Home Office alarmingly reported a 33% surge in potential victims of modern slavery, totalling 16,938 compared to the previous year’s 12,706. This isn’t a localised issue—it spans every corner of the world.

In this comprehensive guide, we aim to break down the crucial aspects of the Modern Slavery Act 2015, empowering your business with the knowledge required to operate ethically and sustainably. By doing so, your company becomes a vital participant in the collective effort to combat modern slavery on a global scale.

What is the Modern Slavery Act 2015?

Introduced in 2015, the Modern Slavery Act is a piece of legislation that seeks to protect workers from exploitation for personal or commercial gain, ensuring they don’t forfeit their freedom in the process. This includes but is not limited to human trafficking, coercive forced labour involving violence or intimidation, and debt bondage, where individuals are compelled to work against their will to settle a debt.

Does the Modern Slavery Act apply to my business?

The legislation applies to all UK businesses and subsidiaries engaged in the supply of goods or services, provided their turnover exceeds £36 million. It orders the presence and public display of a policy on the company’s website. Even for those falling below this financial threshold, there’s an option to voluntarily adopt and showcase a policy, reinforcing a commitment to best practices. This ensures transparency throughout the business and supply chain, safeguarding against risks and guaranteeing compliance with legal requirements.

Modern Slavery Act statement requirements

Companies that fit the criteria above must do their duty to identify, prevent and eliminate modern slavery in their operations and supply chains. This involves publishing an annual ‘slavery and human trafficking statement’ each financial year.

The statement must not only be approved by the board but also bear the signature of a director. It should comprehensively outline the steps taken by the company to eradicate slavery and human trafficking. Below are the specific areas covered by the Modern Slavery Act statement requirements:

 

  • Risk assessment: Conducting a meticulous risk assessment is paramount. UK companies must conduct a thorough review of their business operations, organisational structure, and global supply chains to pinpoint areas where the potential for human trafficking and slavery might exist.


  • Due diligence processes: Integral to the Modern Slavery Act requirements is the execution of due diligence processes within supply chain risk management. This ensures that companies actively assess, address, and mitigate potential risks associated with modern slavery in their supply chains.


  • Policies on modern slavery and human trafficking: Companies must articulate clear and comprehensive policies addressing modern slavery and human trafficking. These serve as guiding principles for the organisation’s stance and actions against such issues.


  • Key performance indicators: The Modern Slavery Act statement requirements extend to the establishment and disclosure of Key Performance Indicators. These KPIs provide measurable benchmarks for evaluating the business’s progress and efficacy in combating modern slavery and human trafficking.


Training: Employers must implement robust training programs to raise awareness about modern slavery issues and equip employees with the ability to identify signs within their work environment.

Consequences of non-compliance with the modern slavery act

Currently, there are no criminal convictions for businesses that fall short of compliance with the Modern Slavery Act 2015. Nevertheless, the government retains the authority to seek an injunction from the High Court, compelling a company to publish the required statement. Failure to comply may lead to severe penalties, including the imposition of an unlimited fine.

However, the reputational damage inflicted upon organisations failing to proactively address modern slavery concerns could be substantial. In a time where ethical considerations increasingly influence consumer choices, compliance is not only a legal obligation but a strategic imperative for long-term success.

How Smas can support your business

With many years of experience across a wide range of industries, we recognise the unique needs of every business. That’s why we are committed to providing bespoke solutions that support and prove your business’s reliability, ethics, sustainability and compliance to your valued customers.

Join the tens of thousands of contractors who have already achieved their WorkSafe PQQ certification, and become a Smas Worksafe consultant to help transform the Health & Safety of your business. Discover our range of SSIP accreditation packages tailored to suit your business.

Contact us today and speak to one of our friendly experts to find out more.