The Modern Slavery Act may appear as an irrelevant piece of legislation for local law-abiding employers, however all business owners will soon be required to publish a statement setting out how they protect against slavery, servitude, forced or compulsory labour, and human trafficking in their supply chains.
The United Nations estimates that roughly 30 million individuals are currently caught in the slave trade industry worldwide, with around 13,000 victims here in the UK.
On the face of it, the Act only applies to large businesses – those with an annual turnover of more than £36 million.
These companies are now legally required to produce an annual slavery and human trafficking statement to show the steps they have taken during the financial year to ensure that slavery and human trafficking are not taking place throughout their business or supply chains.
It will likely include relevant policies, how risks of slavery are identified and managed, and what training on the issue has been made available to staff.
If the business isn’t taking positive steps against slavery and human trafficking, this must be highlighted in the report. Businesses will then come under pressure to ensure steps are taken.
In practice, businesses of all sizes will be held accountable. Larger businesses will be expected to report on what those in its own supply chain are doing, including any smaller companies involved.
Supply chains can be long and complicated: imagine the number of businesses who supply products to Tesco, for example, or consider a large employer which might operate a staff canteen and buy its food from a number of different catering companies, each of which in turn have a large number of suppliers. Transparency will take a huge effort.
Larger business that are legally required to publish an annual statement will want to show they work alongside transparent and ethical businesses.
Otherwise they run the risk of adverse publicity from pressure groups, media exposure as well as the commercial influence of large customers and investors.
In short, whatever size supplier you are, you will likely be required to have a policy on slavery and human trafficking.
Ensure your suppliers do too, or risk losing a contract to a business that does. n To write a column for the DT email firstname.lastname@example.org.