Home Office increases focus on modern slavery statements

Posted on: May 2nd, 2019

The Home Office has ramped up its approach to modern slavery compliance, reminding organisations to ‘open up about modern slavery in their supply chains, or risk being named as in breach of the law’.

It is nearly four years since the Modern Slavery Act 2015 came into force, requiring organisations which (a) supply goods or services, (b) carry on a business, or part of a business, in the UK, and (c) have an annual turnover of £36,000,000 or more, to publish an annual modern slavery statement. The statements must be published annually for each financial year ending on or after 31 March.

Naming and shaming

The Home Office has now ramped up its focus on tackling modern slavery, sending formal letters to over 17,000 companies it believes is caught by the applicable legislation. It has also announced that it will be publishing a list of non-compliant companies shortly, naming and shaming those who are failing to produce a statement in accordance with the modern slavery laws.

In relation to content, the statement must set out the steps an organisation has taken to ensure there is no slavery and human trafficking in any of its supply chains, and in any part of its own business. If the organisation has not taken any such steps, the annual statement must say so. Whilst there is no prescribed format for the statement, it is recommended that the statement is written in simple language, succinct with useful links, and produced in English and all other languages relevant to the supply chain.

The government’s guidance also states that external parties will expect to see a year-on-year improvement ‘outlining practical progress on how the organisation is tackling the risks and incidence of modern slavery in its operations and supply chains’ from one year to the next. It is recommended that previous statements from earlier years are maintained online, even when new statements are published, to allow comparisons to be made.

We understand that the Home Office letter being sent to UK companies asks the organisations to publish an up-to-date annual statement by 31 March 2019, as the Home Office intends to publish its list of non-compliant companies following an audit of statements on this date. Strictly speaking, the Modern Slavery Act does not contain a statement due date. Government guidance provides that the statement should be published as soon as possible after the financial year-end, within six months at most.

However, organisations who have not published their statement for the most recent financial year would be wise to produce and publish this as soon as possible, to avoid being named by the Home Office and possible reputational issues.

If you require further information on how the laws on modern slavery affect your organisation, please get in touch. Similarly, if you need assistance producing or updating a modern slavery statement, including implementing methods for showing year-on -year improvement, please contact the Employment Team as soon as possible.