To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the effectiveness of section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act.
18 November 2020
The landmark transparency provisions contained in section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 established the UK as the first country in the world to require businesses to report annually on their work to prevent and address modern slavery in their operations and supply chains.
Under the current provisions, if a commercial organisation does not comply with the duty to provide a modern slavery statement, the Home Secretary can apply for a court injunction which mandates compliance. The Government has also committed to considering enforcement options in line with the ongoing development of the Single Enforcement Body for employment rights, led by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
However, if someone has concerns about an organisation’s modern slavery statement they could write to the Board of Directors (or equivalent) as the Act requires a modern slavery statement to be approved by the Board and signed by a Director (or equivalent) to ensure senior level accountability for modern slavery. The Government expects an organisation’s senior leadership to take responsibility for their company’s modern slavery statement to ensure they are a fair reflection of the circumstances and the action they are taking.
The Independent Review of the Modern Slavery Act, which was commissioned in 2018 and delivered its final report in 2019, credited section 54 with making modern slavery “a business-critical issue” and increasing “board-level scrutiny and engagement.”
The Independent Review also made recommendations designed to improve the effectiveness of the Act’s transparency provisions. The Government accepted the majority of the Review’s recommendations and on 9 July 2019 the Home Office launched a public consultation seeking views on proposals to strengthen the Act’s transparency legislation.
Following widespread support from a broad coalition of business, civil society and public sector respondents, the Government response, published on 22 September 2020, committed to taking forwards an ambitious package of changes to strengthen and future-proof transparency, including:
- Extending the reporting requirement to public bodies with a budget of £36 million or more;
- Mandating the specific reporting topics statements must cover;
- Requiring organisations to publish their statement on the new Government digital reporting service;
- Setting a single reporting deadline by which all modern slavery statements must be published.
Addressing modern slavery risks is a complex, long-term task, and the new measures are designed to incentivise organisations to demonstrate year-on-year progress in key areas and take targeted action based on where their risks are highest.