UK Modern Slavery Act becomes law

Paul Snell is managing editor at Supply Management
27 March 2015

Legislation requiring companies to report on what they are doing to tackle modern slavery in their supply chains has been approved by the UK Parliament.

The Modern Slavery Act was granted Royal Assent by politicians yesterday, on the final day of the current Parliamentary session.

David Noble, group CEO, CIPS, said: “We welcome the passing of the Modern Slavery Act and hope it represents the first step to eradicating modern-day slavery in supply chains and to ensure this abuse comes to an end. For too long transparency in supply chains has been overlooked. We hope this new legislation will highlight the vital importance of diligent supply chain management in the UK and worldwide.

“We look forward to working with the government to ensure the provisions for supply chain transparency are as robust as possible.”

The anti-slavery legislation, the first of its kind in Europe, includes a clause that requires business to disclose what they are doing to ensure there is no slavery in their supply chain. In addition, it strengthens enforcement powers, increases the maximum sentence for serious offences from 14 years to life in prison, and provides more protection and support for victims.

“The presence of modern slavery in today’s society is an affront to the dignity and humanity of every one of us. The Modern Slavery Act 2015 is an historic milestone,” said home secretary Theresa May.

“This landmark legislation sends the strongest possible signal to criminals that if you are involved in this vile trade you will be arrested, you will be prosecuted and you will be locked up. And it says to victims, you are not alone - we are here to help you.

The government is currently consulting to determine which companies will be covered by the Act. The consultation closes on 7 May.

Rachel Wilshaw, ethical trading manager at Oxfam, said: “By obliging companies to report on their efforts to tackle forced labour, the UK is going some way to opening a window on the murky world of modern slavery. The legislation is a good first step, but its success will depend on the government keeping up pressure on companies to purge slavery from their supply chains."

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