Changes are looming for the Modern Slavery Act
Following the Queen’s Speech in May 2022, the UK Government has confirmed its plans to introduce a new Modern Slavery Bill (the “Bill”) aimed at “strengthening the protection and support for victims of human trafficking and modern slavery and to increase accountability of companies and other organisations to drive out modern slavery from their supply chains”.
This article explores what the introduction of the new Bill might mean for companies and what steps should be put in place now to ensure compliance in the future.
The Modern Slavery Act 2015 (the “Act”) was introduced to clarify modern slavery offences and toughen penalties for those committing such offences. Under Section 54 of the Act, UK companies with an annual turnover of £36 million or more are required to produce an annual statement that details the steps taken to address modern slavery risks within their organisation and supply chains.
The Act sets out the following “recommended” reporting areas that organisations may wish to include in their modern slavery statements:
- Organisation structure and supply chains;
- Policies relating to slavery and human trafficking;
- Due diligence controls, including grievance mechanisms;
- Risk assessment and management;
- Key performance indicators that measure the effectiveness of the approach; and
- Training on modern slavery and human trafficking.
Eligible organisations must publish the modern slavery statement on their website and include a link to the statement in a prominent place on the website's homepage. They are also encouraged to submit their annual modern slavery statements to the UK government’s online modern slavery registry which, at present, it entirely voluntary.
For further information on the Act, read our previous insight article here.
Proposed Regime: The three ‘P’s
The proposed changes to the Act are broadly encapsulated by what we have termed the three ‘P’s: Presentation, Penalties and Publication. Whilst the list below is not exhaustive, it highlights the key changes that are expected to be enshrined in the new Bill and should, therefore, be considered when drafting any modern slavery statement in the future.
- Presentation - It is expected that the presentation of modern slavery statements will become more regimented under the new Bill. This will be achieved by mandating the six “recommended” reporting areas and extending the reporting requirements to public bodies, thereby broadening and clarifying the scope of the Act.
- Penalties - Civil penalties are likely to be introduced to encourage greater compliance with the Act. However, it remains unclear what level of penalty may be imposed, and how and by whom the new regime will be enforced.
- Publication - It is proposed that all eligible organisations will be obliged to publish their modern slavery statement on the UK Government’s online registry. In addition, Government has highlighted their proposals to introduce a single reporting deadline to encourage regular, prompt publication.
It is impossible at this stage to know what the published Bill and the final legislation will look like, but preparing for any new Bill should be a priority for many organisations to protect victims of modern slavery, the reputation of the organisation and ensure legal compliance, whilst also boosting their own environmental, social and governance (ESG) credentials.
If organisations focus on creating a detailed and objective modern slavery statement now, this will inevitably lead to more robust procedures being implemented to combat human trafficking and modern slavery in the future.
If you would like any further information or advice, please contact Helena Park from the Corporate team.
*This information is for guidance purposes only and does not constitute, nor should be regarded, as a substitute for taking legal advice that is tailored to your circumstances.
 Queen’s Speech 2022, Background briefing note - https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/queens-speech-2022-background-briefing-notes.