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UK Government Publishes Guidance on Preparing Slavery and Human Trafficking Statements

The Modern Slavery Act 2015 requires commercial organisations operating in the UK to produce statements outlining the steps taken to ensure that no slavery exists in businesses or supply chains.

The Modern Slavery Act 2015 (the Act) requires any commercial organisation that supplies goods or services, carries on a business (or part of a business) in the United Kingdom, and has a net annual turnover of at least £36 million to produce a Slavery and Human Trafficking Statement (Statement) setting out the steps it has taken to ensure that there is no slavery occurring in its own business or its supply chains during the relevant financial year.

The Modern Slavery Act 2015” summarised the Act’s objective to achieve transparency of labour practices in supply chains and the requirement on organisations that meet the relevant criteria to produce Statements. The UK government has now published guidance on preparing a Statement in the guide “Transparency in Supply Chains etc. — A practical guide”.

The requirement on organisations to publish a Statement now applies to organisations with a financial year ending on or after 31 March 2016. The guide states that organisations are expected to publish a Statement as soon as is reasonably practicable (within six months) after the end of each financial year. Although organisations must, under the Act, publish a Statement for each financial year in which they exceed the specified net annual turnover threshold of £36 million, the UK government strongly recommends that organisations continue to publish Statements in subsequent years even if their turnover falls below that threshold.

Content of Statements

While the guide from the government is not prescriptive, it does contains suggestions on what to include in a Statement. The guide suggests that an organisation include the following information in its Statement:

  • The organisation’s structure—i.e., its business(es) and supply chain(s)

  • Any policies that deal with slavery and human trafficking issues (this could include  business ethics policies)

  • Its due diligence processes

  • Identified risks of slavery and human trafficking in its business(es) and supply chain(s) and the steps taken to manage such risks

  • The effectiveness of the steps taken to manage slavery and human trafficking risks and any performance indicators measuring such effectiveness

  • Any training given to staff in the organisation’s business(es) and/or supply chain(s) regarding slavery and human trafficking

Organisations should note that even if they have taken no steps during the financial year to identify, prevent, or mitigate slavery and human trafficking, this information must be included on the Statement.

The Statement is required to be approved and signed by a director, member, or partner of the organisation to ensure senior accountability for preventing modern slavery and human trafficking issues.

Penalties

If an organisation fails to comply with its obligation to publish a Statement, the Secretary of State may seek an injunction that requires the organisation to do so. As a practical matter, failing to comply with the requirement to produce a Statement (or producing a Statement indicating that no steps have been taken to reduce labour exploitation and achieve transparency in supply chains) is likely to be damaging to the reputation of an organisation.

Copyright © 2019 by Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP. All Rights Reserved.

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About this Author

Pulina Whitaker, Morgan Lewis, labor and employment lawyer
Partner

Pulina Whitaker’s practice encompasses both labor and employment matters as well as data privacy and cybersecurity. She manages employment and data privacy issues in sales and acquisitions, commercial outsourcings, and restructurings. Pulina provides day-to-day advisory support for multinationals on all employment issues, including the UK’s Modern Slavery Act and gender pay reporting requirements. She also advises on the full spectrum of data privacy issues, including preparing for the General Data Protection Regulation. Pulina has deep experience managing international...

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Matthew Howse, Employment law attorney, Morgan Lewis
Partner

As practice group leader for Morgan Lewis’s labor and employment practice in London, Matthew Howse represents clients in the financial services, media, legal, and insurance industries in High Court and employment tribunal litigation. His experience includes employment law as well as privacy and cybersecurity law. In addition to litigating both contentious and noncontentious issues, Matthew provides strategic employment law advice and counsels clients on the employment law aspects of transactions.

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Sarah Stock, Morgan Lewis, labor and employment lawyer
Associate

Sarah Stock works with clients across a wide range of sectors including media, insurance, finance, pharmaceutical, infrastructure and construction. Sarah has experience acting on contentious and non-contentious employment matters including disciplinary, grievance and discrimination issues, executive arrivals and departures, redundancies, and on employment aspects of corporate transactions. Prior to joining Morgan Lewis, Sarah trained and practiced on qualification in employment law at another international law firm.

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