Modern Slavery Act

21 October 2020

Despite slavery being illegal, it's still one of the biggest forms of malpractice on a global scale. It's increasingly become more common as our international supply chain and demand increases.

As a business, you need to ensure all your employees work in conditions that meet lawful requirements.

If you neglect human rights this way, you could end up facing business closure, criminal charges, and even imprisonment.

In this guide, we'll look at what the modern slavery act is, examples of enslaved labour, and how to eliminate slavery in the workplace.

What is the Modern Slavery Act 2015?

The Modern Slavery Act 2015 is legislation which demonstrates your obligation to eliminate enslavement.

In the UK, the act was first published in 2013; but received royal assent in 2015. It doesn't specifically relate to businesses. However, Section 54 of the act, ('transparency in supply chains'), demonstrates legal compliance as an employer.

The act requires businesses to have a 'modern slavery statement' in place. This is a declaration to eliminate any form of slavery at work–from your recruitment choices to your management operations.

What are examples of modern slavery offences?

You might think slavery doesn't happen in this day and age. But there are so many global businesses which work off the backs of enslaved workers.

And it's not just in foreign countries; any business can indirectly have links to these unlawful work practices. Here are examples of offences relating to modern slavery:

  • Forced labour: Involves forcing victims to work under threats of violence (physical, emotional, or psychological).
  • Child labour: When victims below 18 years old are forced or trafficked into work.
  • Bonded labour: Happens when victims are forced into work to pay off loans. (It's also known as debt bondage).
  • Human trafficking: Forcing victims into labour after moving them to foreign places or countries (using deception, fraud, or force).

Your business must support international human rights against enslavement. So, check every procedure and stakeholder report to ensure there are no links to any form of slavery.

How to eliminate modern slavery in the workplace

Slavery and human trafficking are illegal and abhorrent practices. Employers must take appropriate efforts towards making healthier work environments–which support equal opportunities for employees.

If you neglect their human rights this way, you could face detrimental, criminal charges against your business.

Here are ways to eliminate modern slavery in the workplace:

Create a modern slavery statement

Employers should create a modern slavery statement. This is a written document which highlights ways of eliminating workplace enslavement, as well as being proactive in hiring through legal means.

A modern slavery statement is mandatory for companies that meet certain criteria–smaller businesses can choose to have one.

Your statement needs to be published and made publicly available, for both employees and non-employees. Employers should ensure all operational areas comply with their modern slavery statement.

For example, hiring workers who have not been subject to human trafficking. Or ensuring every worker receives a legal wage and fair working conditions.

It might seem challenging for global companies to comply with the law on the same level as others. However, you need to manage work practices or government factors which risk one's human rights.

Amend your workplace policies

Ways to eliminate workplace enslavement can be presented through your workplace policies.

A modern slavery policy allows you to specifically demonstrate relevant government legislation during everyday work. An annual statement should be published with amendments, declarations, and restrictions.

Alternatively, you can add your anti-slavery rules to existing policies. These include policies like:

  • Human rights: Ensures all appropriate rules comply with potential breaches of international human rights and standards.
  • Safeguarding: Ensures commitment to protecting both employees and non-employees from physical, emotional, and psychological harm.
  • Code of practice: Ensures all suppliers/ workers follow legal and moral behaviour within the business.
  • Third-party supply chains: Ensures principles on how to conduct business through honesty and transparency.
  • Diversity and inclusion: Ensures inclusion and equality within the workplace; as well as protection from discrimination.
  • Wellbeing: Ensures commitment to creating working environments that support the well-being of all employees.

Assess clients and suppliers

You need to manage potential slavery risks that derive from your clients and supply chain. Assess whether these external contacts also comply with government laws on enslavement. This includes assessing areas like:

  • Work environments.
  • Conduct and ethics.
  • Labour and production.
  • Human rights (UK government and international laws).

Perform relevant risk assessments

There are so many factors which can uncover modern slavery. The best way to highlight them is through risk assessments.

From recruitment to salary, focus on these three factors throughout your assessments:

  1. How the business operates.
  2. Where the location of business operations is.
  3. How the business deals with supply chains.

The published findings for your risk assessment should be presented in the public realm i.e., to customers, partners, and the general public. Evidence and reviews developed are then used to outline your practical duty towards eliminating workplace enslavement.

Provide training on eliminating modern slavery

Offer your employees training on eliminating enslavement in the workplace. Managers, supervisors, and even workers themselves should understand their anti-slavery rights.

Make sure all business areas (from onboarding employees to supply chains) have access to the right training and provision.

Provide awareness training on identifying unlawful processes, dealing with potential victims, and reporting to the correct authorities.

Outline whistleblowing report procedures

Employees have a legal right to expose and report unlawful practices in the workplace. This can be done in the form of whistleblowing.

Remember, slavery goes against international human rights. Meaning, all employees have a legal right to 'blow the whistle' and report illegal conduct. This goes for both global and government action for whistleblowing on slavery.

Include whistleblowing report procedures in your anti-slavery training, management, and operations.

Get expert advice on modern slavery with Peninsula

As an employer, you need to ensure your business manages any indication or direction toward workplace enslavement.

Think about what steps, obligations, and enforcements are needed to eliminate modern slavery in the workplace. If not, you could end up facing criminal charges and potential imprisonment.

Peninsula offers expert advice on modern slavery. Our team offers employment contracts and documentation services, which are available 365 days a year.

Want to find out more? Book a free chat with one of our HR consultants. For further information, call 0800 028 2420.

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