The Modern Slavery Bill is expected to be debated in Parliament before the end of 2014 and is expected to become law before the 2015 General Election. If passed, it is expected to grant courts in England and Wales new powers to protect individuals who are trafficked into and within the UK, held against their will and forced to work.
For companies, the Modern Slavery Bill could result in a real change to the way they are expected to report on modern slavery in their supply chain.
Why has the Modern Slavery Bill been introduced?
For a number of years there has been a growing concern about human trafficking and establishing a definition of modern slavery. People think of slavery from the films that have been out recently and it’s often viewed as a problem that belongs to the past; but there are examples of modern slavery right on our doorstep through forced labour, human trafficking and gangmasters. It is a real problem. In fact, new figures from the National Crime Agency (NCA) reveal that there were 2,744 suspected victims of human trafficking in the UK, a rise of 22% on the 2012 figure.
What are the potential implications for managing supplier relationships?
A key aspect of the draft Bill includes a requirement for companies to report the actions they are taking to ensure modern slavery is not present in their supply chain.
If this aspect of the Bill becomes part of the final Act, it is likely to be another non-financial requirement of the Directors’ annual report. This would mean that in addition to carbon emissions, human rights and diversity, companies would also have to report what they are doing about identifying and preventing modern slavery in their supply chain.
While we wait for the full content of the Bill that will be debated in Parliament, some companies are already taking the initiative to start investigating and reporting on modern slavery in their supply chain.
Identifying potential risks related to modern slavery now will mean companies are well positioned to meet future legislative requirements and, more importantly, help protect vulnerable people that work in their supply chain.