New recommendations to strengthen laws in the UK to tackle modern slavery and protect victims have been welcomed by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), the global chartered body for health and safety professionals.
A new independent review of the Modern Slavery Act (2015), which has been conducted by Baroness Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, Maria Miller MP and its Chair, Frank Field MP, made 80 recommendations across four areas: the role of the independent anti-slavery commissioner; transparency in supply chains; independent child trafficking advocates; and the legal application of the act.
Under the 2015 Modern Slavery Act (section 54), commercial organisations with a turnover of £36m or more must produce a statement each financial year showing what steps they have taken to make sure there is no modern slavery in their business and supply chain.
But the review finds that around 40% of eligible companies are not currently compliant with modern slavery legislation, and the number of potential victims identified in the UK each year has more than doubled, from 3,266 in 2015 to 6,993 in 2018.
“IOSH is urging the UK government to lead by example by acting on the recommendations within the report and ensuring greater compliance with the law from eligible organisations”
Richard Jones, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at IOSH, said:
“This review exposes some of the key failings in how the UK is tackling the abhorrent issue of modern slavery. Worryingly, too many companies are failing to comply with legislation and the number of potential victims identified in the UK each year is increasing. Organisations must be made aware of this problem, take effective anti-slavery actions across their operations and supply chains and provide greater transparency by publicly reporting on this.
“The UK Government needs to act and urgently implement the report’s recommendations. A united front is required to tackle this growing humanitarian issue – modern slavery must have no place in the UK or anywhere in the world.”
In brief, some of the review’s recommendations on transparency in supply chains include:
- The statutory guidance [on transparency in supply chains] should be strengthened to include a template of the information organisations are expected to provide on each of the six areas [that a statement may cover].
- Guidance should make clear that reporting should include not only how businesses have carried out due diligence but also the steps that they intend to take in the future.
- There should be a central government-run repository to which companies are required to upload their [modern slavery] statements and which should be easily accessible to the public, free of charge.
- Section 54 should be extended to the public sector. Government departments should publish a [modern slavery] statement at the end of the financial year, approved by the Department’s board and signed by the Permanent Secretary as Accounting Officer. Local government, agencies and other public authorities should publish a statement if their annual budget exceeds £36 million.
- Government should strengthen its public procurement processes to make sure that non-compliant companies in scope of section 54 are not eligible for public contracts.
- Businesses should be required to have a named, designated board member who is personally accountable for the production of the [modern slavery] statement.
IOSH is part of an advisory group, which has been set up by Baroness Young of Hornsey to support her campaign, Let’s Make It Work: The Alliance for Transparency in Supply Chains Reporting. Through the campaign, Baroness Young is seeking to strengthen legislation to prevent modern slavery and maintain momentum on improved transparency in supply chain reporting.
Baroness Young acted as an expert adviser to this independent review and the report expresses support for her Private Member’s Modern Slavery (Transparency in Supply Chains) Bill, which seeks to extend the section 54 reporting requirements to all public authorities.
Prime Minister Theresa May has previously acknowledged that more needs to be done to tackle modern slavery.