Whilst at a dinner with a leading employment barrister just before Christmas we were asked our view on what would be the hot HR topic of 2016. The general consensus around the table was that the Modern Slavery Act 2015 would likely top the list for all companies, irrespective of size.
The Modern Slavery Act 2015 requires companies with a turnover in excess of £36million to (a) include a statement in their accounts detailing the steps they have taken to eliminate modern slavery from their supply chain and (b) prominently display this statement on their website (assuming they have one).
'Our turnover is less than £36million and therefore this doesn't apply to me' I hear you say ... this may be true but think again!
One of the most likely steps that companies who have to write a Modern Slavery statement will take is to write to everyone in their supply chain asking what steps each supplier has taken to eliminate slavery from their supply chain. On this basis, if you're in the supply chain of a company whose turnover is in excess of £36million you're likely to receive a letter in the not too distant future asking you what steps you've taken.
To be able to reply and show that you have taken reasonable steps, you will need to ask the same question of your supply chain, and so on meaning even the smallest companies are likely at some stage to be approached by a customer or possible customer and be asked the question; it's likely to be a question in PQQs or tender documents too.
The legislation does not require you to ensure that slavery doesn't exist in your supply chain, it merely requires you to state what steps you have take to ensure that it doesn't. On this basis, your statement could be merely that you've taken no steps at all although this response gives rise to the possibility that companies who are required to submit and display a statement may deselect suppliers who themselves haven't taken reasonable steps.
There is no 'enforcement' within the Act itself although possible supplier de-selection is perhaps punishment enough.
We'd love to hear from you if you'd like more information or help in writing your Modern Slavery statement.