… despite its abolition by the Slavery Abolition Act 1833 and other legislation in the 19th century (most of which has since been repealed and replaced with its modern equivalent in the form of the Human Rights Act 1998, which prohibits slavery).
Of course modern slavery is different from the type of slavery that was abolished more than 180 years ago: ownership of people as chattels is hardly a live issue in modern Britain, although detecting and preventing the exploitation of people as workplace commodities remains an issue that exercises many people in an increasingly connected world.
So why is this post relevant now? It’s because, in March 2017, we’re approaching the first full year (ending on 31 March 2017) in respect of which the requirements of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 (the “MSA”) have to be met by large commercial organisations.
Is your organisation successful enough to have to care? The MSA applies to organisations that carry on business in the UK and have a global turnover of more than £36m per annum. It requires you to prepare, sign and publish prominently an annual slavery and human trafficking statement for each financial year ending on or after 31st March 2016, stating what you have done (or not) to ensure that human trafficking isn’t happening in your supply chains or business.
But (in the same way as with the Gender Gap Reporting Regulations – see my blog here) there’s no formal sanction for not making a statement. That said, drivers such as CSR, reputation, brand and employer-of-choice are bound to result in organisations doing what is required by the MSA. Also the Government can get an injunction requiring compliance and if this is ignored it can give rise to an unlimited fine for contempt of court, for which individual directors may be liable.
The statements that are published will make for interesting reading.