UK government unveils new modern slavery rules

The UK government has today unveiled new rules to ensure large businesses and public sector bodies tackle modern slavery risks across their supply chains.

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Public bodies with a budget of £36m or more – including local authorities in England and Wales – will be required to regularly report on the steps they have taken to prevent modern slavery in their supply chains, which the government described as “a world first”.

Across all sectors, organisations with a budget of £36m or more will also be forced to publish their modern slavery statements on a new digital reporting service, which will be launched early next year.

The government has also mandated 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.

“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,” said safeguarding minister Victoria Atkins.

“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 Modern Slavery Act 2015 made the UK the first country in the world to require large businesses to report on how they prevent modern slavery in their operations and supply chains.

Today's announcement forms part of the government’s response to a transparency in supply chains consultation, which sought views from businesses, public bodies, investors and civil society on a range of options to strengthen the Modern Slavery Act’s transparency legislation.

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.

This comes after it published the world’s first Government Modern Slavery Statement in March this year, setting out the steps taken to eradicate modern slavery from its supply chains on around £50bn of its annual spending.

All ministerial departments are now working towards publishing their individual modern slavery statements from 2021.

“There is no excuse for any business not to play their full part to contribute to eliminating the scourge of modern slavery," said the Ethical Trading Initiative's (ETI) executive director, Peter McAllister.

“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.”

 

Image credit: Shutterstock

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