Modern slavery

Some of our clients, on filling out their annual audit forms to companies such as CHAS/SMAS etc. have been asked for their “Modern Slavery” Policy. This has caused a bit of a stir with many completely unaware of what they have to do

Part of the Modern Slavery act seeks to address Modern Slavery and human trafficking practices in parts of businesses and supply chains, where there is a risk of slavery and human trafficking taking place, and the steps it has taken to assess and manage that risk.

For supply chains even though there is no requirement to produce a statement (below a certain revenue threshold) again, but best practice is for companies to seek assurance from their suppliers that these practices do not exist. The Modern Slavery Questions that these auditors ask seek to gain that assurance.

So, this week I thought that I would look at this topic and provide guidance as to what you need to have in your company.

Modern Slavery.


Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking is an international crime, with more than 40 million victims around the world. The UK Government estimates that in the UK there are up to 13,000 victims of modern slavery representing 102 different nationalities. The top four countries of origin for victims are the UK itself, Albania, Vietnam and China. Due to businesses working internationally using complex supply chains, UK businesses may be fuelling the use of slavery through their supply chains. Political concern about the level of the problem led to the Modern Slavery Act 2015.

What is modern slavery?

Those kept in modern slavery are essentially ‘owned’ by their employers and are controlled through a variety of means including enormous debts that victims will never be able to pay off, and threats of harm to themselves, or their families, if they do try to leave.

Victims may be “employed” through agencies or directly by unsuspecting companies and may be coerced into giving up legitimately earned wages or benefits payments. Modern slaves work in the black economy creating wealth for others through their work and loss of liberty.

Established categories of modern slavery and human trafficking are: sexual exploitation, forced labour (and bonded servitude), domestic servitude and criminal exploitation. The human rights of individuals are contravened for the benefit of criminal individuals and organisations. Slaves may be found working in many sectors of the economy including the restaurant trade, prostitution, cannabis farms, agriculture, shipping, textiles, high tech, the beauty industry and car washes.

Risk: could it be happening in your business?

Due to the complex web of potential opportunities for the occurrence of modern slavery, many individuals and organisations may actively, or inadvertently, be complicit in the crime. In 2015, an Ethical Trading Initiative study, identified that 71% of firms believed there was a likelihood of modern slavery occurring at some point in their supply chains; this was particularly likely in high-risk sectors or countries, and the lower stages of the supply chain.

Senior commentators have stated that all companies and all sectors are affected by this problem, including many household-name brands which are now actively seeking to tackle and reduce their involvement in modern slavery. A number of high-profile brands have experienced embarrassment when the involvement of modern slavery in their supply chains has been identified by high profile media exposés; these include Nestlé, Nike, Primark and Tetley.

The Modern Slavery Act 2015 compels employers to consider their own role in potentially encouraging or condoning modern slavery.

The Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply (CIPS) has been active in its involvement with anti-slavery campaigning. In their thorough guidance materials they encourage businesses to be positive and proactive in understanding modern slavery and committing to end it. Supply chain considerations are a key vulnerability to modern slavery in a great many organisations. The CIPS states that a risk-based audit process should be deployed to drive modern slavery out of the supply chain. Key to this is the training of procurement staff, the auditing of suppliers, and potentially the involvement of third party auditors to ensure standards are consistently applied. CIPS recommend appropriate policy development, rigorous processes, and planning for when (rather than if) corrective action is necessary.

Modern Slavery Control: reducing the risk

Directors should ensure that strategic management of Modern Slavery is in place before a specific incident is discovered. By planning in advance, a business will be able to reduce the risk of modern slavery in its organisation.

  • To understand business obligations under the Modern Slavery Act, read HM Government’s Transparency in Supply Chains etc – A Practical Guide.

If the business has a total annual turnover of £36m or greater to comply with the Modern Slavery Act 2015 you must:

  • write a Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking Statement for each financial year (see more below)
  • appoint a senior employee to be responsible for compliance with the Act
  • resource and train supply chain management staff to ensure that they understand the Act and its implications for auditing suppliers
  • review supplier audit procedures to ensure that the supply chain complies with the Act
  • review the risks of modern slavery through the supply chain; locate the major risks, then deploy resources appropriately.

Note that the updated Government guidance encourages organisations with turnovers of less than £36m to produce a Transparency Statement voluntarily. All organisations should also:

  • work with responsible suppliers who can demonstrate an awareness of the issues, and robust processes in place to deliver a transparent and slavery-free supply chain
  • consider writing a slavery and human trafficking policy
  • raise awareness of the issue amongst relevant staff by ensuring suitable training is delivered; aim to equip staff with the knowledge and skills to reduce risks to the business.

How should a business respond to the discovery of modern slavery in the organisation?

If suspicions of modern slavery are identified in the UK, the matter should be reported to the police.

Managing the risk of modern slavery in the overseas supply chain is more complex. Businesses should consider the reporting requirements and risks in each country of operation. It may be necessary to instruct and train supplier companies or even terminate commercial relationships to ensure good practice throughout the supply chain.

Companies may find it useful to consult guidance published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), as well as the advice and training provided by the Ethical Trading Initiative.


In 2017, 130 defendants were prosecuted under the Modern Slavery Act 2015 (on a principal offence basis); compared to 51 defendants prosecuted under the Act in 2016.

In one example, a trafficking ring which had enslaved up to 400 people who worked on farms, rubbish recycling centres and poultry factories in the Midlands. The victims were made to live in insanitary accommodation and provided with inadequate nutrition, whilst criminals stole their earnings and benefits. Eight people were sentenced to a combined 55 years of jail sentences, in July 2019 when this case was heard at Birmingham Crown Court.

Modern Slavery Risk to reputation

In parallel with governmental action, public opinion increasingly demands that companies should take a strong ethical position on modern slavery. Some UK Non Governmental Organisations are already active in collecting modern slavery statements together to form a readily accessible directory to ensure businesses will be held to account, and in the USA a number of class actions against corporations which have exploited slave labour have been launched.

If a company is found to be involved in modern slavery, negative publicity and media interest is likely. Therefore, modern slavery is not only a criminal activity and unethical, but also likely to impact on the profitability of the organisation.

Legal obligations

The Modern Slavery Act 2015

The Modern Slavery Act 2015 makes provision to enable the Secretary of State to protect and compensate victims of modern slavery and human trafficking, and to require large businesses to write an annual slavery and human trafficking statement. In this statement the organisation should set out to the actions taken to ensure that modern slavery is not taking place anywhere in the supply chain of the business (either in the UK or abroad) or in any other aspect of their operations.

The UK government has produced a helpful guidance document which is regularly updated, setting out the background to the Act and the obligations now placed on organisations and employers (the current edition is HM Government’s Transparency in Supply Chains etc – A Practical Guide). The guide explains: how to write, approve and publish a slavery and human trafficking statement.

Your modern slavery and human trafficking statement

Every organisation with a total annual turnover of £36m or greater, conducting business in the UK is required by the Modern Slavery Act 2015, and its Regulations, to publish a slavery and human trafficking statement for every financial year. The statement must be published on the organisation’s website (if it has a website) or made readily available in print on request and must identify any steps (or none) which have been taken to ensure that modern slavery cannot take place in the organisation or its supply chains.

If a business fails to produce a slavery and human trafficking statement for a particular financial year the courts may require the publication of the statement and ultimately the business may be subject to an unlimited fine following legal action.

You might choose to have a statement, even if you do not have an annual turnover of £36m

If you want guidance as to what should go into your Modern Day Slavery Policy please contact us by phone 01458 253682, Email or via our Facebook page  or by Twitter.

Taunton & Somerset CPD Group at The Exchange House Taunton

Please remember that we now run these CPD events at the Exchange House, 12 – 14 The Crescent, Taunton TA1 4EB on a fortnightly basis

The next of the CPD events is listed below.Exchange House Taunton and Somerset CPD Group

As previously requested, if you could let us know whether or not you can attend it would be greatly appreciated. Also, if you would like to give a talk, or know of somebody who would, please contact Jon at [email protected]

Our next Seminar will be on Wednesday 20th November 2019 Could you please arrive by 12:30 pm prompt.

Our speaker for this one is Sophie Hutchins of Forbo Flooring Systems will talk about Flooring products and systems

This Presentation will include specifying the correct flooring for each project, understanding entrance systems, acoustic floor covering solutions, linoleum, general purpose and specialist vinyl, flocked flooring, carpet tiles and/or LVT’s.

If you haven’t already booked your place, or if you are not on the CPD Seminar mailing list but would like to be please drop Jon an email and he will deal with your request.

As per our last one if you could let Jon know whether or not you can attend within 7 days of receipt of his email, it would be greatly appreciated.

Contact Details [email protected]  07831 714199 or 01458 253682

Then the Seminar on Wednesday 4th December 2019 – This will be the last CPD talk of 2019.

Our speaker for this one is Mike Shufflebotham of Green Building Store will talk about Passivhaus Design & Specification

Introduction to Passivhaus methodology & standard

  • Specification required to achieve Passivhaus certification
  • Windows & doors – Passivhaus requirements and importance of installation detailing
  • Airtightness products and techniques needed to achieve Passivhaus requirements

MVHR – what it is and how to ensure optimal performance

Please Note: These will commence again in January 2020

Save Money on Your Online Training

If you are a company that will need quite a few of your staff trained using these courses, you may want to take advantage of the fact that you can pre-buy the training credits at a bulk rate.

This will allow you to buy the credits at a discounted rate to be used at your convenience. There is no limit on the time it takes to use the credits and 1 credit = 1 training course.

For companies that know they will need over 5 in a year but not all at the same time this automatically starts reducing your costs.

To buy in bulk simply click on the bulk credits button and purchase the number you will require. Once you have paid for your courses you can utilise them at your leisure and fit them into your staff training requirements.

If you have any questions, please contact us and we will be happy to advise.