UK Modern Slavery Act Research

UK Modern Slavery Act Research

+Description

The UK's Modern Slavery Act 2015

The Modern Slavery Act became law in the UK on 26th March 2015, it requires a commercial organisation that has a turnover of over £36 million with operations in the UK to publish a slavery and human trafficking statement each year which sets out the steps it has taken to ensure there is no slavery or trafficking in its supply chains or its own business, or states that it has taken no such steps.

What is modern slavery?

Modern Slavery is a term used to encapsulate both offences in the Modern Slavery Act: slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour; and human trafficking. The offences are set out in section 1 and section 2 of the Act.

Definition of Slavery and Servitude

Slavery, in accordance with the 1926 Slavery Convention, is the status or condition of a person over whom all or any of the powers attaching to the right of ownership are exercised. Since legal ‘ownership’ of a person is not possible, the key element of slavery is the behaviour on the part of the offender as if he/ she did own the person, which deprives the victim of their freedom. Servitude is the obligation to provide services that is imposed by the use of coercion and includes the obligation for a ‘serf’ to live on another person’s property and the impossibility of changing his or her condition.

Definition of Forced or Compulsory Labour

Forced or compulsory labour is defined in international law by the ILO’s Forced Labour Convention 29 and Protocol. It involves coercion, either direct threats of violence or more subtle forms of compulsion. The key elements are that work or service is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the person has not offered him/herself voluntarily.

Definition of Human Trafficking

An offence of human trafficking requires that a person arranges or facilitates the travel of another person with a view to that person being exploited. The offence can be committed even where the victim consents to the travel. This reflects the fact that a victim may be deceived by the promise of a better life or job or may be a child who is influenced to travel by an adult. In addition, the exploitation of the potential victim does not need to have taken place for the offence to be committed. It means that the arranging or facilitating of the movement of the individual was with a view to exploiting them for sexual exploitation or non-sexual exploitation. The meaning of exploitation is set out here. Recent figures from the UK National Crime Agency (NCA), show that the most prominent exploitation type recorded for potential victims first exploited as a child (where this is known), was labour trafficking.

Behaviour constituting modern slavery

Identifying potential victims of modern slavery can be a challenge because the crime can manifest itself in many different ways. There is a spectrum of abuse and it is not always clear at what point, for example, poor working practices and lack of health and safety awareness seep into instances of human trafficking, slavery or forced labour in a work environment. However, businesses have a responsibility to ensure that workers are not being exploited, that they are safe and that relevant employment (include wage and work hour), health and safety and human rights laws and international standards are adhered to, including freedom of movement and communications. There will be cases of exploitation that, whilst being poor labour conditions, nevertheless do not meet the threshold for modern slavery – for example, someone may choose to work for less than the national minimum wage, or in undesirable or unsafe conditions, perhaps for long work hours, without being forced or deceived. Such practices may not amount to modern slavery if the employee can leave freely and easily without threat to themselves or their family. Organisations do still nevertheless have a legal duty to drive out poor labour practices in their business, and a moral duty to influence and incentivise continuous improvements in supply chains.

Suggested reading:

  1. 27 statements from FTSE 100 companies by Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC)

  2. Section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act and Guidance issued under the Act

  3. CIPs guidance

  4. Walk Free "Tackling modern slavery 1.0" guide

  5. Statements can be found here

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