The UK Modern Slavery Act passed into law in March 2015 with further guidance produced Oct 2015. The Act contains some significant measures to prevent exploitation including forced labour and trafficking. In particular it:
This is a term that is increasingly being used to describe forced labour and trafficking. The use of the word slavery, which is loaded with connotations has advantages and disadvantages. It helps to galvanize governments, business, and civil society to demand change, to amend laws to prosecute those involved. The disadvantage is that this same rhetoric conjures up images of the worst visions of slavery, of imprisonment, of padlocks and chains. The reality is that modern slavery is seldom like that. Instead it is about exploitation of vulnerabilities, is often financial in nature and is an integral part of many supply chains. The extreme vision of slavery can therefore also serve to divert attention from the reality and from the business models that make exploitation a systemic issue in a range of sectors.
It’s common to think of trafficking as being about moving people across borders, often in a clandestine manner for exploitation – often women or children, often for sexual exploitation.
A more sophisticated understanding is that really trafficking contains 3 key elements.
Movement – Coercion – Exploitation
Extracting work or service from another by threat or under the menace of penalty.
This will usually involve some form of coercion causing an inability to end the situation. The ILO has identified six main indicators of forced labour
Types and degrees of exploitation are seldom fixed however and the reality of forced labour is therefore very fluid. It can perhaps be best understood as a
“ continuum of exploitative experiences and situations”
a range of experiences from low-level exploitation perhaps around pay and conditions through to more egregious abuse.
A key component of the legislation concerns company reporting. Companies with a turnover of over £36 million undertaking any business in the UK, even if not headquartered there, are required to publish an annual “slavery and human trafficking statement.” The statement should reflect what efforts, if any, a company has made during the previous financial year to ensure that its business operations, and its supply chain, are free from slavery and human trafficking.
The slavery and human trafficking statement must be approved and signed by a company’s top management. For corporations, the statement must be approved by the Board of Directors and signed by a Director. The statement must then be published on the company’s website.
The Act does not set out what form a slavery and human trafficking statement must take. Instead it sets out six suggestions as to what information should be included:
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