Modern Slavery Act

  • Business Advice
people in a row typing on computers
Peninsula Logo

Peninsula Group, HR and Health & Safety Experts

(Last updated )

Modern slavery is present in every single area of the UK. You probably see people trapped in slavery regularly. This often happens through employment, so ensuring your business follows proper legislation is essential.

Despite being illegal, modern slavery is still found in today's businesses and industries.

It's considered to be one of the biggest forms of employment malpractice. That's why employers must acknowledge and comply with the Modern Slavery Act 2015.

If you neglect these statutory human rights, you could end up facing serious damages to reputation.

In this guide, we'll look at what the Modern Slavery Act is, who must comply with the act, and how to prevent such offences from your work practices.

What is the Modern Slavery Act?

The Modern Slavery Act 2015 (MSA) is legislation that outlines how businesses must address and report slavery and human trafficking.

The act was first published in 2013; it then received royal assent and came into force in 2015. This law doesn't solely relate to a company, it also applies to their supply chains.

The act requires certain companies to publicly present a modern slavery and human trafficking statement, as well as other legal obligations.

What are examples of modern slavery offences?

It's hard to imagine an illegal offence, like slavery, still happening today. But it occurs more often than you'd think.

There are UK-based businesses that have indirect (sometimes direct) links to such human rights breaches. Let's take a look at examples of modern slavery offences:

Forced labour

This is when a person faces threats of violence and is forced to work when they haven't voluntarily agreed.

Victims are considered to be helpless or vulnerable people. For example, migrants trapped in loan arrears or people working in sweatshops who are paid little or nothing at all.

Child labour

This is when a child is forced to work against their will.

These victims may face criminal offences like sexual exploitation and working in hazardous conditions.

Bonded labour

This is when a person is forced into slavery to pay off their own (or other people's) loans. It's also known as debt bondage.

Some employers will strategically trap victims in a way that they're never able to repay their debt.

Human trafficking

This is when a person is illegally sold for the purpose of forced labour or sexual (or commercial) exploitation.

Human trafficking legislation varies from country to country; and it can take place on a trans-national scale.

What does the Modern Slavery Act 2015 cover?

The Modern Slavery Act 2015 covers statutory guidance on the following:

  • To make provision for slavery, servitude, and forced (or compulsory) labour.
  • To cover victim identification and protection.
  • To report an offence to the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner.
  • To ensure connected purposes on modern slavery are met.

The Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner encourages good practice in managing slavery and human trafficking. If their court uncovers offences, businesses may be subject to fines, closure, or even imprisonment.

Do all companies need to provide a modern slavery and human trafficking statement?

No, only certain companies must legally provide a modern slavery and human trafficking statement. These are companies who:

  • Act as a body corporate or partnership.
  • Carry out business in any part of the UK.
  • Supply goods and services.
  • Have an annual turnover of at least £36 million or more per year.

They must publish their report on their company website, or through the UK government registry portal.

If your company doesn't meet the legal measures, you don't have to publish your statements. However, many businesses choose to disclose them as an annual report; or present them through an anti-slavery policy.

Does the Modern Slavery Act apply to supply chains?

Yes, the Modern Slavery Act also applies to any supply chain that a company owns or requires services from. This is covered in Section 54 of the act - 'Transparency in Supply Chains'.

Employers must carry out the appropriate due diligence to ensure their own business or supply chains are free from such practice. The law also states employers must include supply chains in their annual report.

How to eliminate modern slavery in the workplace

Employers must be proactive in eliminating any practice that may relate to slavery and human trafficking.

Make sure you comply with all parts of the act - from risk identification to support for victims. By doing so, you'll be able to keep compliance with human rights, whilst protecting human beings.

Let's take a look at ways to eliminate modern slavery in the workplace:

Present a modern slavery statement

The first step to take involves presenting a modern slavery statement.

These should explain how your company aims to identify, prevent, and eliminate modern slavery. They also include what statutory defence is provided to potential victims.

There's no specific guideline on what statements should include. However, statutory guidance covers areas in relation to:

  • Company organisation, structure, and supply chains.
  • Policies.
  • Due diligence processes.
  • Risk assessment and management.
  • Performance indicators for prevention measures.
  • Awareness training.

Publish the statement online

The next step is to publish modern slavery statements online.

Businesses can disclose them through the UK government's modern slavery and human trafficking statement registry portal. This should be done by the 30th September, on an annual basis. You can also disclose them on your own website.

Remember, publishing statements is a legal provision for all companies with £36 million or more turnover. But all businesses can choose to publish a modern slavery statement if they choose.

Create a modern slavery policy

Whilst it's not a legal duty, it's always better to have a policy relating to the Modern Slavery Act.

The policy should take provisions or special measures towards eliminating modern slavery. It also covers the law on human rights, and how your business or supply chains comply with the act.

These policies should also be provided to your supply chains. Make sure their legal duties are highlighted and how a potential breach may lead to a contract termination.

Conduct relevant risk assessments

There are many practices that may directly (or indirectly) lead to acts of modern slavery. These can be identified by conducting relevant risk assessments.

All modern slavery risks must be addressed appropriately. Maybe a supply chain uses sweatshop factories; or they don’t pay foreign workers fairly. Employers must do their due diligence on all findings.

Provide awareness training

Employers should offer awareness training and provisions on modern slavery in the workplace.

This should be specifically made available to those in recruitment or HR management. But, you can offer the awareness training to all your staff-members.

Make sure they're aware of how to identify and deal with any offences linked to slavery. And how to support potential trafficking victims.

Allow whistleblowing rights

Employees have a legal right to report any unlawful practice found in their workplace. This includes their right to whistleblowing.

Remember, slavery goes against international human rights. Meaning, businesses are legally entitled to publicly denounce such offences. Make sure you include whistleblowing report procedures in your modern slavery policy.

Has the Modern Slavery (Amended) Bill passed?

No, the UK government has yet to pass the Modern Slavery (Amended) Bill. The new bill aims to:

  • Increase protection and support methods for slavery and human trafficking victims.
  • Ensure companies take more responsibility when it comes to eliminating existing offences found in supply chains.
  • Increase transparency and defence against modern slavery risks.

Once the bill has received royal assent, it's set to cover factors like:

Public body inclusion

The bill may require public bodies to be included in reporting legislation. Those with a yearly budget of £36 million or more may have to publish annual statements (in accordance to the Modern Slavery Act).

Civil penalties for legal breaches

There may be new civil penalties introduced for anyone who breaches the law. A Single Enforcement Body may carry out penalties, like imposed fines, for any non-compliance found.

Strict restrictions on statements

There isn't an actual law on what modern slavery statements must disclose - only statutory guidance. However, the six areas may ultimately stand as legal restrictions for all eligible companies.

Get expert advice on Modern Slavery Act with Peninsula

As an employer, you need to ensure your company prevents all acts of modern slavery and human trafficking.

It's your legal obligation to comply with relevant human rights. If you ignore these, courts could force fines, business closure, and even imprisonment onto you.

Peninsula offers expert advice on the Modern Slavery Act. Our teams provide 24/7 HR advice which is available 365 days a year. We take care of everything when you work with our HR experts.

Want to find out more? Contact us on 0800 028 2420 and book a free consultation with an HR consultant today.


Got a question? Check whether we’ve already answered it for you…

Related articles

  • a man and woman in supermarket uniform


    HR in Retail

    In this guide, we'll discuss why HR in retail can be difficult, the challenges you might face, and how to manage them.

    Peninsula TeamPeninsula Team
    • Business Advice
  • a man and woman in hard hats outside warehouse looking at computer


    Night Workers

    In this guide, we'll discuss night work, the rights of night workers, and what you must do to comply with the law.

    Peninsula TeamPeninsula Team
    • Employment Law
  • a woman sat at a desk and computer


    What is HR Software?

    In this guide, we'll discuss HR systems, the benefits of using HR software, and how Peninsula can make your HR processes easier.

    Peninsula TeamPeninsula Team
    • Business Advice
Back to resource hub

Try Brainbox for free today

When AI meets 40 years of Peninsula expertise... you get instant, expert answers to your HR and Health & Safety questions

Sign up to our newsletter

Get the latest news & tips that matter most to your business in our monthly newsletter.