A new law takes effect from today requiring UK companies to prove they have no links to slave labour, making them accountable for working conditions in supply chains.
Under an addition to the Modern Slavery Act, companies who supply goods or services and have a turnover in excess of £36m must publish a statement on their websites each year detailing the steps they have taken to ensure that there is no modern slavery either within their own company or within their supply chains.
The new law is a way of making British companies prove they don’t rely on international slavery or human trafficking and means that supply chains are now under public scrutiny.
What British Companies Must Do
UK businesses must now provide information to consumers showing that there is no slave labour anywhere in their supply chain.
Businesses can refer to the new Government guidance on the steps they must take in providing complete supply chain transparency. They might find a previous blog from our Business Services Solicitors helpful, too: How will the Modern Slavery Act 2015 affect Small Businesses?
The new rules aim to make all companies that subcontract work, or buy products from external suppliers, take responsibility for every step in the supply chain.
It’s something that the Government hopes will allow consumers to make more informed purchasing decisions. Karen Bradley, UK Government Minister for Preventing Abuse and Exploitation, commented how the new law puts valuable information in the hands of consumers and said, “Shoppers can make more informed decisions at the checkout. Businesses risk damaging their reputation, or their bottom line, if they don’t take action to prevent modern slavery in their supply chains.”
Is More Needed to Combat Modern Slavery in the UK?
The new law makes the UK the first country in the world to introduce a mandatory obligation for transparency in supply chains, and is to be welcomed.
The Modern Slavery Act exists to protect vulnerable people and ensure that those who enslave others face justice. With Home Office estimates suggesting that up to 13,000 people could be trapped in modern slavery in Britain, are the new rules on supply chain transparency enough to fully combat modern slavery?
One step further in the fight against modern slavery would be the introduction of Government labour inspection throughout the supply chain. It’s one thing requiring companies to publish an annual report each year. It’s much better, in my opinion, to have a proper labour inspection system so that any modern slavery or human trafficking taking place in the supply chains of UK companies can be identified and stopped in its tracks quickly.
Kim Harrison is Slater and Gordon’s National Practice Development Leader for Human Rights.