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Awareness of the Modern Slavery Act.

Byline: SOPHIE LAKE

ON October 29, 2015, the Modern Slavery Act 2015 came into force.

The act seeks to combat the crimes of slavery (in this context meaning someone depriving another of his/her freedom as though they are owned by that person) and human trafficking and prevent businesses in the retail, electronics and manufacturing sectors from using suppliers which traffic labour.

Whilst the spirit of the act has been widely welcomed, it is important organisations do not underestimate the extent of their reporting obligations under section 54 of the act.

The act requires every organisation carrying on business in the UK, with a global turnover of PS36 million to publish a slavery and human trafficking statement each financial year setting out the steps taken to ensure no human trafficking or slavery exists in their supply chain. Even with the resources at the disposal of large businesses this will be an onerous obligation.

The act applies in full from March 31, 2016, however, transitional relief has been provided for those businesses with a financial year end between October 29, 2015, and March 30, 2016, which will not be required to file a statement for that financial year.

The statement should be published in a prominent place on the business's website and, must be approved by a senior person (most likely a director). This means individual directors will have the burden of ensuring the statement is thorough and complies with the act.

So, what would happen if a business fails to produce a statement or reports no steps have been taken to combat human trafficking or slavery? In these situations the Secretary of State is able to seek an injunction requiring the business to comply.

If it still fails to it could be placed in contempt of court and receive an unlimited fine.

Perhaps most damaging of all, failure to comply would severely damage a business's reputation.

The scope of the verification process likely to be required is such that organisations will need to be responsive and act quickly in order to make sure that they are compliant.

This is paramount as businesses who fail to do so will be unable to avoid the reputational risk which will inevitably ensue as a result of a failure to comply.

Sophie Lake, associate in DLA Piper's Birmingham team

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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Nov 5, 2015
Words:385
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