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Published: 03 August 2017
Area of Law: Modern Slavery Act Statements

Slave drivers - no thank you!

The presence of slavery and forced labour in the operations and supply chains of international retailers and in the UK is a concern to both businesses and consumers. 
 

The perception of the word “slave” has changed from its perhaps historical connotations into an everyday modern term. The number of slaves in the world today is more than at any point in history. The term we now use, however, is human trafficking; where people are forced to work against their will or without remuneration. To combat this problem, the government has amended the Modern Slavery Act 2015 to include heightened transparency in supply chains to encourage retailers and other businesses to be proactive and engage in tackling the issue of forced labour.

How can retailers ensure good retail practice? 

1. The Law: section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 ensures ‘Transparency in Supply Chains’ (TISC) by requiring every business in the UK with an annual turnover of £36m or more to produce a slavery and human trafficking statement for each financial year of the organisation.

2. Improved risk assessment: effectively managing supply chains will enhance overall risk management and, through embracing the new regime, retailers can add real value to their operations as these procedures and policies become a new norm for the conduct of business.

3. Employment: roll out robust recruitment processes in line with UK employment laws, e.g. checking 'right to work' documents and employment contracts, ensuring everyone employed is 16 and receiving at least minimum wage. 

4. Training: ensure staff understand more about this growing issue and how to report any suspicions they may have, whether in a business or personal context. 

5. Stand up against it: increased awareness of the reality of modern slavery has led to goods and services linked to labour abuses being rejected by consumers. Consumers are becoming increasingly engaged in activism on this issue and, as a result, companies are facing mounting pressure to ensure supply chains are free from exploitation. 

Retailers need to take a proactive approach and show they are taking modern slavery seriously, working to address the global problem. It’s time to enhance the positive impacts of the supply chain and ensure correct policies are in place in an increasingly ethically conscious market.

"They are very professional, respond promptly, always discuss the monthly bill and have, so far, provided us with excellent advice in connection with employment issues. I have been very satisfied."

Andrew Argyle LLB, Practice Director, Potter Clarkson LLP