Business and public sector mandated to report on modern slavery actions

Large businesses and public bodies will be mandated to report regularly on the steps they have taken to prevent modern slavery in their supply chains, as the government moves to tighten up legislation in this area

Public bodies which have a budget of £36m or more, including local authorities in England and Wales, will need to report on their spend, amounting to some £250bn.

The government will also introduce a requirement for organisations with a budget of £36m or more in all sectors to publish their modern slavery statements on a new digital government reporting service, and to meet a single reporting deadline each year.

It has also committed to mandating the key topics that modern slavery statements must cover, from due diligence to risk assessment, to encourage organisations to be transparent about the work they are doing to ensure responsible practices.

This new service, which will be launched early next year, is designed to radically enhance transparency making it easier for consumers, investors and civil society to hold organisations to account for the steps they have taken to root out modern slavery.

The move forms part of the government’s response to the transparency in supply chains consultation conducted in September last year.

At the time, the government said the decision to make reporting on specific topics compulsory was to address the findings of research following the introduction of the Modern Slavery Act in 2015.

This showed that whilst 41% of FTSE 100 reported on their slavery and trafficking policies, only 17% reported on effectiveness, and highlighted inconsistency across the reporting areas and a lack of uptake in voluntarily covering the Home Office’s suggested content.

Victoria Atkins, safeguarding minister, said: ‘Sadly, we know that no sector is immune from the risks of modern slavery which can be hidden in the supply chains of the everyday goods and services we all buy and use.

‘We expect businesses and public bodies to be open about their risks, including where they have found instances of exploitation and to demonstrate how they are taking targeted and sustained action to tackle modern slavery.’

The government has also committed to establishing a single enforcement body for employment rights, to better protect vulnerable workers and ensure a level playing field for the majority of employers complying with the law. The government will publish a response to this consultation in due course.

The government will take forward options for civil penalties for non-compliance with the Modern Slavery Act in line with the development of the single enforcement body for employment rights.

Peter McAllister, executive director of the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), said: ‘ETI is pleased to see the changes introduced by government, in particular mandated reporting areas and extension to the public sector.

‘We hope that this leads to greater compliance and greater action from more companies.

‘There is no excuse for any business not to play their full part to contribute to eliminating the scourge of modern slavery.’

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