January 3, 2019

Home Office Threatens to “Name and Shame” over Modern Slavery

A significant number of clients are telling us about letters they’ve received from the Home Office. These threaten to “name and shame” them for failure to meet legal obligations under the Modern Slavery Act 2015 if they don’t comply by 31st March 2019.

The UK Modern Slavery Act 2015 – what are the requirements?

This legislation requires organisations with a turnover exceeding £36 million to produce an annual modern slavery statement. If your organisation falls into this category, the statement has to be signed off by your Board and displayed prominently on your website.

One of the key aims of a modern slavery statement is to identify risk in both the business and its supply chain. Consequently many of our smaller clients are also required to produce a statement because they are part of a larger organisation’s supply chain.

However, the 2015 legislation is relatively weak. You can comply with its requirements by publishing a statement that says you haven’t done anything and don’t particularly intend to! This is one of the reasons why the Government is currently consulting on strengthening the law. The reporting obligations are likely to increase. Furthermore, organisations with a smaller turnover could be required to produce a statement.

New Naming and Shaming Risk

“Naming and shaming” will not be an empty threat. It’s already a widely used technique in respect of employing illegal workers, failing to pay the minimum wage and infringing data protection provisions. Negative publicity of this nature can damage the reputation of a business. In some cases it can even result in loss of business and cancellation of contracts.

Currently, over 11,000 UK companies must produce an annual report. Only 3,000 have actually done so. We urge you to take action now if your organisation hasn’t done anything and has a turnover of over £36 million. Equally, if you are a smaller organisation, you may receive requests for supply chain information about your modern slavery and human trafficking risks. We’re aware from some clients that these requests are often “requirements”. E.g. provide the information we want or we can’t do business with you!

The cost of Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking

The impact of modern slavery and human trafficking is huge, both on human lives and our economy. It cost the UK  £4.3 billion in 2016/17 according to the 2018 UK Annual Report on Modern Slavery. It’s a form of organised criminal behaviour that’s hidden in plain sight in the UK and internationally. Along with drugs and the arms trade its one of the most profitable business areas for international organised crime. And it’s increasingly moving towards second place.

Consequently, the Home Office naming and shaming campaign will not be an empty threat. Measures to put a stop to modern slavery and human trafficking are adopting increasing political significance and enhanced public profile. And it’s not just here in the UK. Many other countries are now legislating to try and stamp it out too.

How we can help

If you are a Moorepay customer and are using a Moorepay handbook, it already contains some helpful content. For example, there is content on bribery and corruption, whistle-blowing, equalities and diversity to name a few clauses. You may also have asked us for a specific modern slavery clause. Such content does not in itself fulfill the statutory obligations of Section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 but it undoubtedly assists. It also helps smaller organisations meet supply chain requests.

We can now offer consultancy services to help you comply with the legislation or supply chain requests. This includes auditing relevant employee handbook content, helping you produce a modern slavery statement and advising about its publication. We can also assist with training for staff and measures to involve your own supply chain. Please contact 0845 184 4615 for more information.

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About the author

Mike Fitzsimmons

Mike is a Senior HR Consultant within the Moorepay Policy Team. He is responsible for the developing of employment documentation and is an Employment law advisor. With over 30 years of senior management and HR experience, Mike has managed teams of between 30 and 100 employees and is familiar with all the issues that employing people brings. He has also served as a non-executive director on the Boards of several social enterprises and undertook a five year tour of duty as Executive Chair of a £30+ million annual turnover Government agency.