Businesses should be required to disclose the steps they take to eradicate modern slavery from their supply chains.
That’s according to Labour MP Frank Field, who was asked by home secretary Theresa May to review the evidence base for a new Modern Slavery Bill.
It comes on the same day that the Home Office has published a draft version of the law.
The government said it will continue to work with businesses “on a voluntary basis so they can ensure their workforces and supply chains are not exploited”.
It added: “We will also give further consideration to how the experience and knowledge of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority can be maximised to protect workers in other sectors they do not cover.”
Field said that, as a first step, the bill should require company annual reports and website to detail the “actual measures they have taken to eradicate modern slavery from their supply chains”.
He also said firms must appoint a special non-executive director with the responsibility of heading their anti-slavery business activities.
The panel of MPs looked at the 2010 California Transparency in Supply Chains Act – the first law of its kind. It applies to retailers and manufacturers with annual revenues of more than $100 million (£61.3 million) that do business in California. The legislation requires them to disclose information about their efforts to eradicate slavery and human trafficking from their direct supply chains.
The report said: “There is widespread agreement that the Californian Act is proving to be an important first step towards the eradication of modern slavery in supply chains, enabling companies to engage with the issue in a ‘safe’ arena.”
It added: “The panel believes that the government has a vital role to play in introducing sensible and effective legislation which will allow businesses to more easily take a lead on this issue.
“Many companies are beginning to map supply chains but without legislation to level the playing field, businesses will be reluctant to put their head above the parapet for fear of PR issues or competitive disadvantages, especially in an age of social media.
“Legislation can draw a helpful ‘line in the sand’ for businesses, allowing them to move forward on this issue and step over the line together.”
The draft bill will now be subject to pre-legislative scrutiny by the Joint Committee of both Houses. The Modern Slavery Bill Evidence Review and the Joint Committee’s report will inform development of the final bill and an action plan, which will be published in the spring.