The first 6 month deadline for the publication of an annual Slavery and Human Trafficking Statement (SHT Statement) under section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 (MSA) is 30 September 2016. This will be for entities affected by MSA with a financial year ending on 31 March 2016. Affected entities should publish an SHT Statement as soon as reasonably practicable or in any event within 6 months of its financial year end.
The SHT Statement is essentially something that looks back on the previous financial year to confirm what the entity has done and the steps it has taken in relation to the prevention of modern slavery. The Statement must either disclose what steps the entity has taken to ensure that slavery and human trafficking is not taking place in any of its supply chains or its business, or state that is has taken no such steps. However the entity does not have to guarantee that the entire supply chain is free from slavery and human trafficking.
Failure to comply with the obligations under MSA, or the publication of a statement that discloses that no steps have been taken, could lead to reputational and brand damage.
Who is affected?
Primarily, commercial organisations and any group member/subsidiary with a financial year that ends on or after 31 March 2016, whose total global turnover is £36 million or more in the financial year in question. Home Office guidance states that such organisations should publish an SHT Statement as soon as reasonably practicable or in any event within 6 months of its financial year end. Such commercial organisations will need to put in place policies and contractual protection to deal with the necessary steps if this is not already done.
Entities that are part of the supply chain to such a commercial organisation will also need to be aware of MSA as they are likely to be contacted/monitored/audited by the organisation in connection with the steps it takes which are to be documented in respect of the SHT Statement, and information concerning the parties may be disclosed within the SHT Statement. A change in policy or raise of the compliance bar by such a commercial organisation could also put an end to relationships with certain suppliers if they cannot demonstrate that they are compliant themselves.
Any growing organisations who do not currently qualify as a commercial organisation under the Act, but who may do after their next financial year should also be mindful of the Act as they may need to publish an SHT Statement in the future. If so new policies may need to be put in place (e.g. a Modern Slavery and human trafficking policy, an amended whistle blowing policy), as well as provisions for reporting and investigating.
Organisations who hold themselves out as being socially aware, human rights aware, for the community etc. may also wish to meet MSA standards whether they are obliged to under MSA or not for reputation and brand purposes.
Howes Percival can assist with/advise upon a number of matters concerning MSA and the SHT Statement, including:
- General or specific advice relating to MSA and section 54;
- Help in preparation and drafting of the SHT Statement and consideration of who needs to give it;
- Policy reviews. Amending and/or drafting policies so they address the risks of modern slavery and human trafficking;
- Help in preparation and drafting of a modern slavery policy;
- Contract reviews. Amending and/or drafting;
- Help in preparation and drafting of the corporate governance paper trail (required for audit and compliance purposes when documenting the decision process leading to the SHT Statement);
- Help with the due diligence exercise;
- Preparation of reports and papers to help with any of the above;
- Giving presentations/ training staff and management in relation to modern slavery;
- Attending/speaking at board, strategy and/or management meetings.
- If you would like more information in this regard please contact Chris Rees (Corporate and Commercial Partner) or Paula Bailey (Employment Partner).