Government minister Victoria Atkins has announced a review of the Modern Slavery Act © PA Images
Government minister Victoria Atkins has announced a review of the Modern Slavery Act © PA Images

Tackling slavery requires 'change in mindset'

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
31 July 2018

Almost a third (31%) of supply chain professionals do not believe their business is doing enough to tackle modern slavery, according to CIPS research.

A survey found less than a quarter (23%) of firms subject to the Modern Slavery Act (MSA) had undertaken site inspections, just slightly up on the 22% who had done so last year.

Meanwhile half (50%) of supply chain managers had provided training on the issue to staff, again only slightly up on the 45% in 2017.

Some 67% of respondents required to complete a MSA statement had done so in 2018, compared to 66% last year. And just 4% of businesses had found instances of modern slavery in their supply chains since the MSA was introduced three years ago, despite National Crime Agency figures suggesting the problem is on the rise.

The findings come as the UK government announces a review of the MSA, including “looking at what more can be done to strengthen this legislation and minimise the risk that goods and services available in the UK are produced through forced labour and slavery”.

In a report the government said complying with the MSA cost businesses on average an estimated £1.5m a year, while the total UK economic and social costs of slavery amounted to £4.3bn each year.

Victoria Atkins, minister for crime, safeguarding and vulnerability, said: “I’ve asked for this review to look at if we should strengthen our legislation to ensure businesses are taking robust action to eradicate forced labour in their supply chains.”

Cath Hill, CIPS group director, said: “Awareness of modern slavery alone will do little to help exploited people.

“Eliminating human suffering is not something that can be done on piece of paper. Modern slavery is an issue that requires constant, proactive attention from the whole business community, sharing knowledge, best practice and intelligence.

“There needs to be a change in mindset. Instead of seeing modern slavery prevention as an annual compliance exercise, business and government must integrate it into the way they conduct due diligence every day.”

The survey found almost a third (31%) of respondents subject to the MSA – firms with a turnover of £36m or more – said there was more pressure to find slavery but no extra resources to do so. Almost three quarters (70%) wanted more access to guidance and training.

In 2018 33% of those subject to the MSA had ensured all workers were in receipt of the minimum wage and robust immigration checks were in place, down on 39% in 2017.

The survey involved 897 supply chain managers, including 425 businesses subject to the MSA.

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