In Theresa May’s inaugural address to the UN general assembly earlier this month she raised the issue of modern slavery as she looks to internationalise the work the UK has done in this area. Having previously championed the issue as Home Secretary this is clearly a high priority issue for the Prime Minister, and so with the Modern Slavery Act 2015 (“the Act”) approaching its one year anniversary we briefly review its impact over the last twelve months.
The Act requires companies whose annual turnover is £36 million or more to make a 'slavery and human trafficking statement' concerning the steps it has taken during that financial year to ensure that slavery and human trafficking is not taking place in any part of its own business, nor any of its supply chains.
However, UK businesses did not initially respond as enthusiastically to the Act as perhaps Mrs May would have liked. Of the first statements published only 22 of 75 fulfilled the Act’s requirements to be signed by a director and available on the company’s homepage.
The UK courts on the other hand are clearly taking the issue very seriously, with the first civil penalty for victims of modern slavery recently handed down by the High Court. The case was brought against a UK business by six Lithuanian men who were trafficked to the UK and subjected to abject working conditions. For further detail please see http://www.boyesturner.com/article/first-uk-company-liable-for-modern-slavery-victims.
It is clear that the British government intends to continue investing time and resources in the development of an operational framework to properly address and combat practices that violate the Act. With the courts prepared to penalise guilty parties for non-compliance it would be wise for those businesses who are subject to the Act to take notice of these efforts and continue to conduct the due diligence necessary to ensure that their business and supply chains are compliant.
Want to hear more?
To find out more about this key topic join us at our Employment Law Conference in London on 20 October 2016. Our Conferences are a mix of legal discussion and practical and hands-on knowhow. To book your place or to find out more please contact Judith Cook or visit our Events Page here.
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