Modern slavery regulations come into force

The regulations laying out large employers’ responsibilities to publish modern slavery statements every year come into force today, 29 October 2015. Statutory guidance accompanying the requirement has also been published.

HR professionals will be relieved that the Government has allowed employers some breathing space, with the requirement to produce a slavery and human trafficking statement not taking effect for a financial year ending on or before 30 March 2016.

Organisations with a financial year ending on or after 31 March 2016 will be obliged to publish a statement setting out what steps they have taken to ensure that no slavery or human trafficking exists in their supply chains.

Bar Huberman, employment law editor at XpertHR, said: “Employers can breathe a sigh of relief that the transitional provisions promised in the summer are fairly generous.”

The Government’s guide sets out further detail about the timescale for publishing the statement: “We expect organisations to publish their statements as soon as reasonably practicable after the end of each financial year in which they are producing the statement.

“In practice, we would encourage organisations to report within six months of the organisation’s financial year end.”

Only commercial organisations carrying out business in the UK with an annual turnover of at least £36 million will be required to publish a statement.

Huberman adds: “While the Modern Slavery Act 2015 provides examples of the information organisations can provide in their statement, businesses were hoping for clear guidance from the Government about how to identify modern slavery, as this requirement is a brand new concept for UK employers.”

While the guidance is not prescriptive about the layout or content of the statement, it includes 11 pages dedicated to the preparation of a slavery statement.

The detail includes what steps organisations can take to ensure that they have effective policies in place: “Tackling modern slavery does not necessarily require a standalone policy. It could simply be adapting, and/or clarifying how existing policies and practices, programmes and management systems already work to prevent modern slavery.”

The guidance sets out what questions an organisation might want to consider when drawing up a modern slavery policy.

In the section on assessing and managing risk, the guidance states: “It is important for businesses to adopt risk assessment policies and procedures that are proportionate to the organisation’s size, structure, location of activities and supply chain(s), and nature of business(es).”

The guidance also discusses how performance indicators can expose an organisation to modern slavery: “Focusing on KPIs to increase production or shipment ‘turnaround’ time speed, for example, may unintentionally increase pressure on those who are producing the goods on production lines.”

It goes on to set out how performance indicators could be used in modern slavery statements.

Modern slavery: information organisations could disclose

  • Process for policy development.
  • Policies that concern business relationships, for example, a supplier code of conduct.
  • Recruitment policy.
  • Procurement policy and incentives to combat modern slavery.
  • Employee code of conduct.
  • Policies concerning access to remedy, compensation and justice for slavery victims.
  • Polices that relate to staff training and increasing awareness of modern slavery.
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