Firms act on modern slavery

Gordon Miller finds out how the UK construction sector is tackling human rights abuses in its supply chain

It took just one section of one piece of legislation to shine a statutory spotlight on a contemporary variation of an oppressive practice ostensibly abolished in the 19th century. Section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act (MSA) focused on transparency in supply chains, in particular the issues of human rights and forced labour in companies’ global affiliations as well as their direct workplaces.

Introduced on 29 October 2015, s 54 requires all companies with an annual turnover of at least £36m to publish an annual statement outlining the steps taken to ensure there are no instances of slavery and human trafficking in their business and supply chain, or declare that no steps to confirm the existence of slavery or trafficking have been taken. It is estimated that s 54 covers 12,000 firms in the UK. First affected were those with a financial year ending on 31 March 2016. These were required to report by 30 September.

A business priority

In the construction sector, which accounts for 10% of the UK’s gross domestic product, the transparency in supply chains (TISC) requirement is particularly significant because many firms have complex and lengthy production and distribution processes.

But complex supply chains and faraway suppliers are no excuse for inaction, as Kevin Hyland, ...

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