The 2015 Modern Slavery Act introduced a requirement for large organisations to produce a modern slavery statement each financial year. The statement will set out the steps the organisation has taken to make sure modern slavery has not taken place in their business or in their supply chains.
Organisations are required to publish the statement on their website within six months of the end of their financial year.
The requirement aims to increase transparency in the business practices of large organisations. The publishing of the statement will allow the public, consumers, employees and investors to view the steps organisations are taking to help tackle slavery.
A template modern slavery statement is available in the 'Modern slavery statement' model documents.
The government has responded to a consultation initially held in July 2019, setting out proposals to strengthen section 54 of the Act. It has also confirmed that new guidance and legislation will be introduced to implement these changes going forward.
On 23 February 2021, the Home Office launched a new registry service on the government site that allows organisations to publish their statements for public viewing. Any organisation can use this service, including those who do not currently need to produce a statement. This is voluntary for now, but legislation making this compulsory is expected at some point in the future.
Please refer to our in-depth section for more information.
Recognising the problems faced by organisations during the coronavirus crisis, the Home Office has published new guidance announcing that they can delay their next modern slavery statement by up to six months without facing a penalty.
The full text of the new guide can be found at this link. It makes clear that, when businesses do issue the required statement, it must include the reason for any delay. Furthermore, given that suppliers may be seeking to recruit additional workers in order to meet increases in demand, organisations need to ensure that they, and their suppliers, are maintaining rigorous checks during the recruitment process. This is to ensure that vulnerable workers are not being exploited by third parties seeking to profit from heightened demand.