Reporting rules 'not driving action' on modern slavery

19 July 2018

Transparency reporting is not enough to tackle supply chain slavery, a campaign group has said.

In a report on the impact of transparency reporting requirements, which looked at the reporting provisions in the UK’s Modern Slavery Act (MSA), the campaign group Focus on Labour Exploitation (Flex) said compliance did not necessarily “drive action” on the ground.

The report included a 10-point framework for governments to improve the impact of transparency legislation.

Under MSA companies with a turnover of more than £36m operating in the UK are required to publish an annual statement outlining what they are doing to identify and eradicate modern slavery in their supply chain. However, as the Flex report points out, being compliant with the act does not “require specific action to be taken to address risk of forced labour”.

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The report said not only was compliance low, but when companies did report they did not use it as an opportunity to take action. “Expert stakeholders do not consider the transparency requirement in its current form to drive action that prevents the exploitation of workers in global supply chains,” it said.

The report said as more countries look into emulating the transparency rules in MSA, it was important governments should seek to create a wider framework around reporting to force companies to be more accountable.

Flex’s 10-point framework for governments include:

1. Putting protection of workers’ rights at the centre of a government’s response to forced labour and trafficking

2. Ensure supply chain transparency legislation sits alongside a range of other legislation preventing labour abuse and exploitation

3. Require public agencies and companies to carry out risk assessments and report on their impact on workers in global supply chains

4. Develop and enforce specific reporting criteria for companies and public agencies

5. Introduce requirements in public contracts protecting human rights in global supply chains

6. Introduce legislation making lead contractors joint and severally liable for labour abuses down the supply chain

7. Establish and properly resource a market-wide labour inspectorate

8. Ensure legal and practical barriers to stop labour inspections from serving immigration control purposes 

9. Review all immigration schemes for how they might create opportunities for abusing migrant workers regardless of the worker’s legal status

10. Remove any barriers to worker unionisation

Separately, the Co-op has become the first client business to sign up to the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority’s construction protocol to eradicate modern slavery, an agreement between members to share information and work collaboratively on modern slavery issues.

Andrew Lofty, director of construction at the Co-op, called on other businesses working with the construction sector to do the same. “Our estates group engages with businesses building and maintaining our stores and the facilities management team interface with a variety of companies, while our insurance business works with home repair contractors,” he said.

“Many of these involve subcontracted labour and often multiple sub contracts – all with the potential to hide the worst excesses of labour exploitation.”

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