The Home Office has published its response to the Independent Review of the Modern Slavery Act which includes a consultation that could lead to tough new reporting rules for businesses. The report was commissioned to look at how the Act can be improved and made several recommendations.
Most of the recommendations focused on the actual crime of modern slavery, so were aimed at the legal system, police and councils who have a responsibility for the welfare of victims, but a significant number related to Section 54, the section covering Transparency in Supply Chains.
Under Section 54 the rules are quite clear – any firm turning over £36m or more needs to set out in a statement how they are looking to remove modern slavery from their operations and supply chains. This has to be published on the UK homepage and signed by a Director or Board member.
However since the Act came in in 2015, there have been criticisms on the lack of enforcement for non-complying companies, the variation in report quality and lack of metrics to directly contrast companies. At techUK we have been helping members improve their responses, producing a report last year and running workshops and events on this critical issue. To amend this, the Home Office is now consulting on ways to strengthen reporting requirements and is proposing:
- Mandating that modern slavery statements have to report against the 6 suggested areas. This is to make it easier to compare statements. Firms could opt out of one area if they say why it doesn’t apply to them.
- The Government will run an online registry for statements that firms have to upload to.
- New Statutory Guidance will come out next year and include a template statement for business to use.
- A single reporting deadline (currently firms have to publish their statement within 6 months of year end).
- A gradual approach to enforcement and sanction for non-compliance, including fines.
- Public sector bodies with budgets of > £36m will have to produce statements.
techUK is responding to the consultation via the Sustainable Supply Chain group. Members interested in responding should get in touch using the contact details below.