Five things businesses should be doing now to address modern slavery

Insights - 03/11/2016

Modern Slavery Act 2015 one year on

The Modern Slavery Act (‘Act’) is back in the news and unfortunately for the wrong reasons. As we pass the one year anniversary of the Act’s introduction, a Panorama investigation has dug up some worrying findings in the supply chains of British retailers. These include children working in factories in Turkey and adult refugees working illegally. Under the Act, UK businesses are required to comply with reporting obligations each financial year and to take steps to ensure slavery and trafficking is not taking place throughout their supply chains.

Whilst the minimum turnover threshold of £36m may not catch your business under the provisions of the Act, organisations falling below this threshold should not turn a blind eye to this important piece of legislation as it could still impact them commercially and ethically.

So why is this relevant to my business?

As the Panorama investigation reveals, slavery continues to be embedded in our society and has become a cog in the world economy. Any organisation that does or intends to do business on any kind of global scale could inadvertently become linked to slavery and human trafficking through its supply chain.

As well as being a criminal and law enforcement issue, slavery is also an issue for businesses as it is the organisations themselves that can create or break the link to third parties at the root of the problem. The reputation of your business could be impacted negatively if you are linked to third parties exposed to slavery and human trafficking issues. Your customers will want to see that you are doing your part to ensure your business is ethical.

What can I do?

Whilst businesses caught by the Act are setting up taskforces to get to the root of these problems, we understand your business may not have the resources to go to such lengths. However, we have outlined below five simple practical steps businesses of any size can take to combat modern slavery:

1.       Review the existing steps, if any, you are taking to ensure slavery and trafficking is not taking place in your supply chain – are these adequate?

2.       Carry out a risk assessment to determinate which parts of your business are most vulnerable to these issues. Focus your subsequent efforts on these parts of the business.

3.       Consider producing an internal policy that:

a.       identifies members of your supply chains (and any third parties they may have relationships with) and whether those suppliers have measures in place to prevent modern slavery;

b.      raises awareness with your workforce about these issues; and

c.       sets out procedures including what to do prior to engaging a new supplier, provisions that can be included in contracts with your suppliers and steps to audit suppliers throughout the course of the relationship.

4.       Consider making training available to your staff on these issues.

5.       Engage directly with suppliers to change their own policies, in particular, at times where your business may have leverage over your supplier.

For further information on how Morrisons Solicitors can support you with internal policies and supply chain management, please feel free to contact our commercial team on 01737 854 500. 

Disclaimer:

Although correct at the time of publication, the contents of this newsletter/blog are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute, legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article. Please contact us for the latest legal position.