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The Modern Slavery Act 2015 – Under Review

13 September 2018. Published by Jeremy Drew, Partner and Amelia Cave, Associate

Earlier this summer the Home Office announced plans to launch an independent review of the Modern Slavery Act 2015. The Act came into force in October 2015 and established the UK as a world leader in the fight against the crime of modern slavery.

Research published by the Home Office in July this year estimates that modern slavery costs the UK in the region of £4.3 billion per year. The unit cost of this crime (i.e. the cost per victim of exploitation in the UK) is stated in the Home Office's report to be second only to homicide. The independent review will aim to accelerate progress in eradicating this abhorrent crime by focusing on reviewing the provisions around legal access and compensation to victims, developing an understanding of the nature of modern slavery offences (which are sadly continuously evolving) and improving victim support. 

One of the most groundbreaking aspects of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 was the introduction of a self-reporting requirement under section 54 of the Act (a so called "section 54 statement"); currently a business (wherever incorporated), which has an annual turnover of £36 million or more and carries on a business or part of a business in the UK, is required to publish a statement on its website stating what steps (if any) it has taken to ensure that slavery and human trafficking is not taking place in any of its supply chains or any part of its own business. The independent review will also look at what more can be done to strengthen these provisions and reduce the risk of goods and services available in the UK being produced through forced labour and slavery. 

The outcome of this aspect of the review will be particularly relevant to businesses in the retail sector, which is regarded as an industry facing a comparatively high risk of modern slavery occurring (particularly in retail companies with complex, international supply chains). 

Find out more below as Jeremy Drew and Amelia Cave discuss the current Modern Slavery Act 2015 and why businesses in the UK and overseas should be mindful of its provisions.