If it hasn’t already happened, I am in dire danger of losing all credibility having faithfully predicted an imminent restatement of the Modern Slavery Act (the “Act”) for more than three years.
To save my blushes, I have had reasonable grounds for such predictions. It was in May 2019 that an Independent Review of the Act was presented to Parliament. In July that same year the Government opened a consultation with the Government Response to the same being issued in September 2020. In March 2021 the Home Office announced the opening of their registry for the filing of S.54 Transparency Statements and reminded us all of the anticipated areas that would be addressed in the forthcoming refresh of the Act. On 15 June 2021 a private members’ bill, the Modern Slavery (Amendment) Bill was introduced to the House of Lords. Yet, here we are at the end of May 2022 with nothing to show but a reminder in the recent Queen’s Speech that there may be jam, not tomorrow, but perhaps sometime in the next parliamentary term.
The 2022 Queen’s Speech announced a Modern Slavery Bill that promises to strengthen the protection and support for victims of human trafficking and modern slavery and increase the accountability of companies and other organisations to drive out modern slavery from their supply chains.
The promise in the Bill for companies and other organisations is of:
i. a strengthening of the requirements on businesses who qualify the Act’s compliance threshold to publish an annual modern slavery statement to set out steps taken to prevent modern slavery in their operations and supply chains;
ii. mandating the reporting areas in modern slavery statements;
iii. requiring organisations to publish their statements in the Home Office registry;
iv. extending the Act’s requirements to public bodies; and
v. introducing civil penalties for organisations that do not comply with the requirements.
In short, the Bill repeats the amendments projected in the Home Office letter of March 2021 notifying businesses of the opening of the registry.
Given the length of time businesses have had to evaluate and adapt to the proposed amendments and presuming the actual adjustments are in line with the predictions, it can be presumed that there will be a limited window following any restatement of the Act before compliance is required and little sympathy for any who suggest they may need longer to adapt.
So, like an old cracked record, I repeat my advice of the last three years – put the wheels in motion now to adapt to the expected amendments while you have the luxury of time.
For further information, please contact:
Simon Shooter, Partner, Bird & Bird