UK: Tackling Modern Slavery: Are You ready?

Last Updated: 5 September 2016
Article by Brett Hartley, Clare Hatcher, Rebecca Ford and Sara Khoja

A 'soft' September deadline is now looming for those organisations with a financial year end of 31 March 2016 and who are caught by the supply chain transparency disclosure obligations under the Modern Slavery Act 2015 (MSA). The MSA includes landmark supply chain transparency provisions under s54 which require 'commercial organisations' (body corporates and partnerships) supplying goods or services with a global turnover of £36 million or more and who carry on business in the UK to publish an 'annual slavery and human trafficking statement' on their website.

This is a statement of the steps taken (if any) to ensure modern slavery is not taking place in the organisation's global business or supply chains and is designed to incentivise large organisations to take responsibility for eliminating modern slavery throughout their supply chains. The MSA's Statutory Guidance makes it clear that while statements should be published as soon as possible, in practice the Government 'encourages' organisations to report within six months of their financial year end.

The 'soft' deadline comes at a time when the UK Government has refocused its attention on tackling modern slavery with the Prime Minister, Theresa May, re-affirming her commitment to the issue in July 2016 by establishing a government taskforce on modern slavery and pledging over £33 million to create a five-year International Modern Slavery Fund focused on high-risk countries. More generally, the market is now much more alive to the issue of modern slavery. Many organisations across various sectors, (some of which have never previously engaged with the issue), are now developing modern slavery policies and procedures, mapping their supply chains, and talking to suppliers about required standards. Of course, there are undoubtedly others that are yet to engage or have taken a rather casual approach, as evidenced by some of the questionable slavery and human trafficking statements already published.

This update is the first in a series of articles focusing on supply chain transparency and modern slavery. We have highlighted below some of the key developments over the last few months, which will be followed by sector, regional and issue specific updates with more in-depth analysis.

Register of Statements

The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) has continued to develop its central register of slavery and human trafficking statements. Over 500 statements have now been collected with links through to each statement from BHRRC's website. This is an excellent benchmarking tool for those yet to publish statements, but it should not be a race to the bottom. An early analysis by BHRRC and Core Coalition found that of the 75 statements examined only 22 satisfied both legal obligations under the s54 (ie, (i) the statement must be signed by a director or the equivalent; and (ii) it must be published on the organisation's website and include a link to the slavery and human trafficking statement in a prominent place on that website's homepage). These are basic legal requirements that all organisations should be able to satisfy. Unfortunately, the 500 or so statements published so far vary greatly in both quality and compliance with these basic requirements.

Strategic Litigation

It is clear that so-called strategic litigation is set to rise where organisations are linked to, or complicit in, modern slavery – in particular bonded or forced labour and human trafficking. Large organisations with brands and reputations to protect are more likely to be targeted, particularly if they operate in high risk areas such as the construction sector, the service industry, agriculture or other primary industries. The BHRRC hosted a well-attended seminar - Strategic Litigation on Modern Slavery in Global Value Chains - in May 2016. It was apparent from the seminar that the construction sector in Qatar and the UAE is likely to be subject to special attention. Notably, the Freedom Fund has released a guide to using strategic litigation to combat modern slavery, which the Freedom Fund describes as a "roadmap to create an international strategic litigation network to punish and deter human traffickers". One of the key takeaways from the BHRRC seminar was a comment by the UK's Anti-Slavery Commissioner, Kevin Hyland, that a company's slavery and human trafficking statement should be a good indicator of whether a company "ought to have known" that modern slavery was occurring in their supply chain (ie, evidence of a criminal offence under the MSA). This is a clear indicator that published statements need to be approached with the gravitas they clearly deserve, state the steps that have actually been taken to address modern slavery, and not overreach or exaggerate the organisation's approach to the issue.

Global Indexes

The 2016 Global Slavery Index (GSI) was published in May 2016 and showed a 10 million increase in the estimated number of people trapped in modern forms of slavery over the 2014 GSI figures (from 35.8 to 45.8 million in total). An alternative to the GSI has now also been developed by Verisk Maplecroft. These indexes can be important tools for assessing and mapping country risks in a similar way to Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index that has been used for years in the context of bribery and corruption due diligence. Other useful tools include the US State Department's "List of goods produced by child labor or forced labor", which is broken down into goods and their source countries and the UK Government's industry-by-industry fact sheets on modern slavery.

Modern Slavery (Transparency in Supply Chains) Bill

Legal sanctions under the MSA for failing to comply with the disclosure obligation under s54 are currently limited to a Court injunction compelling the organisation to publish its statement. There are no fines or penalties for failing to publish a statement (or for doing so poorly or inaccurately), unless the failure is in contempt of a court order to publish. In an attempt partly to remedy this, the MSA may be about to get some bite. A private member's bill is currently before the House of Lords which, if passed by both Houses of the UK Parliament, would:

  1. require commercial organisations and public bodies to include a modern slavery and human trafficking statement in their annual report and accounts;
  2. require the Secretary of State to publish a list of all commercial organisations by sector that are required to publish a statement; and
  3. amend the Public Procurements Regulations to provide for an exclusion for participation in public procurement where an organisation has failed to produce a statement.

Bills instigated by the House of Lords are notoriously difficult to get through both houses, but the Bill is emblematic of calls from many quarters to increase the stakes. Of course, there remains the possibility that if organisations do not take their obligations under the MSA seriously, we could eventually see the introduction of a corporate offence for failing to prevent slavery occurring in supply chains (with an adequate procedures defence), mirroring the Bribery Act 2010.

Bribery, Corruption and Modern Slavery

Wherever there is slavery and human trafficking there will almost inevitably be some form of corruption, whether a payment is made to a border guard to turn a blind eye to human trafficking or to pay a local official to keep quiet about labour conditions in a factory. The issue for organisations and their supply chains is that anti-bribery legislation, such as the UK Bribery Act 2010, has very high penalties when it comes to bribes by the company or associated persons (including those in supply chains). This fact has not been missed by NGOs, with the Freedom Fund, together with other NGOs such as Liberty Asia, releasing a comprehensive analysis of the application and use of the Bribery Act and the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in the fight against modern slavery. As the focus on this issue intensifies, organisations need to be conscious of potential exposure to corrupt practices associated with modern slavery, particularly when it comes to ensuring they have adequate procedures in place under the Bribery Act to prevent bribery by associated persons (within their supply chains).

Where to Next

The focus on modern slavery and supply chains is clearly intensifying. Organisations can no longer afford to ignore any form of modern slavery in their global supply chains. For those organisations operating in high risk sectors or jurisdictions, human rights-related supply chain due diligence should, in our view, take a prominent place alongside other core compliance practices focused on issues such as anti-bribery and corruption, anti-money laundering, economic and trade sanctions, and environmental and social harm. The warning signals to industry are only getting stronger.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Corker Binning
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Corker Binning
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions