Welsh Government launches anti-slavery buying code

22 March 2017

The Welsh Government has launched a code for buyers to help prevent modern slavery and other employment abuses in public sector supply chains.

The Code of Practice for Ethical Employment covers areas of risk including supply chain slavery, the blacklisting of unionised workers, zero hours contracts and the payment of a living wage.

All public sector buyers in Wales, as well as businesses and organisations receiving public funding, are expected to sign up. The government is also encouraging other organisations to adopt the code.

“The Welsh public sector spends around £6bn every year on goods, services and works involving international supply chains… It is therefore vital that good employment practices are at the centre of all public sector projects here in Wales,” said Mark Drakeford, the welsh cabinet secretary for finance and local government. 

Signatories are expected to abide by 12 commitments. These include having written policies on ethical employment, processes for reporting and whistleblowing in the supply chain, training staff responsible for procurement and carrying out assessments to identify high risk spending areas.

Welsh public sector bodies will have to publish annual reports on their implementation of the code, including an action plan and statistics on the number of staff trained and the number of suppliers who have signed up to the code.

A number of resources have been launched to help buyers implement the policies and safeguards in the code, and there are plans by the government to create an online training course.

The code was developed with input from the government’s procurement team and in consultation with buyers from the elsewhere in public sector and other organisations. A government spokeswoman said changes were made to the code during its development to address concerns about the workload and capacity of procurement departments. 

While there are already some legislative safeguards around slavery in the supply chain, including the Modern Slavery Act 2015, there have still been “many examples” where workers in public sector supply chains have not been treated fairly, the spokeswoman said. 

The code builds upon work already done by the devolved government and covers employment practices “regarded as unethical as well as unlawful”, she added.

The government has also partnered with Tiscreport.org, a database of modern slavery statements, and recommends all statements produced by the public sector are submitted to the organisation.

Separately the national government said it would be spending £6m on 10 projects to support the victims of modern slavery. This includes £1m to the UN University to collect data on modern slavery, £140,000 to St Mary’s University to support its research into modern slavery, and support for the NGO GoodWeave that is working to end illegal child labour in the South Asian rug sector.

“Working with NGOs, academics and international organisations, the projects will test a range of activities to build up evidence of what works in addressing modern slavery,” home secretary Amber Rudd said in her speech announcing the funds. The money is part of the £33m pot to combat slavery announced by the prime minister Theresa May last year.

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