Government will name and shame suppliers breaching slavery law

The UK government is planning to name and shame suppliers who have failed to comply with the Modern Slavery Act (MSA).

Speaking to delegates at Procurex National in Birmingham, Francesca Livesey, policy implementation for social value, modern slavery, and sustainability at the Crown Commercial Service (CCS), said the CCS and the Home Office (HO) were auditing suppliers and non-compliant firms faced being excluded from public contracts for three years.

“We’re working with Home Office to audit all these businesses and make sure that those who should have a statement do have a statement,” she said.

“If they’re a public supplier, we will then be writing to them to give them notice because in May or June the Home Office are planning to name and shame suppliers that should be compliant and aren’t. 

“We’re highlighting to our suppliers, you may be appearing on this list, and if you appear on this list it’s evidence that you’re violating labour laws, and on grounds of discretionary exclusion you will now be excluded... for three years.”

A HO spokesperson told SM: “We have written to chief executives of 17,000 businesses about their obligations and made it clear that there are no excuses for non-compliance."

An independent review of the MSA has been undertaken and a final report will be published shortly, said the spokesperson.

The move is part of wider government action to tackle slavery, including the release of new guidance, a procurement policy note, and the launch of the government's first Tranparency in Supply Chains (TISC) statement.

The MSA demands all firms with an annual turnover of £36m or more publish a statement on what action is being taken to tackle slavery in its supply chains.

Action has been prompted as there are currently 4,742 companies that are not confirmed to have statements, out of the 16,835 companies being tracked, according to TISCreport

Livesey said there will also be a new focus on the S54 compliance, with emphasis on the quality of the content.

An interim review of the progress of the MSA published in January raised concerns that "tougher action" needed to be taken to ensure suppliers comply by S54 as a lack of enforcement and penalties were a found to be a key reason for suppliers' non-compliance.

The CCS will be publishing the government's first TISC statement at the end of 2019, said Livesey.

Meanwhile, this month the CCS will launch a guide for tackling modern slavery in government supply chains, alongside a Modern Slavery Procurement Policy Note. This is aimed at improving ethical sourcing and upskilling procurement professionals.

The CCS collaborated with the HO and the Cabinet Office to develop the guide, which includes a supplier assessment toolkit and a supplier self-assessment tool called the Modern Slavery Assessment Tool.

New training will accompany the guide to help ensure procurement professionals understand how to identify and deal with high-risk supply chains. The government partnered with CIPS to create online training and an ethics test.

The CCS highlighted common features of modern slavery including low wages, low-skilled and temporary agency work and complicated supply chains. These tend to be most prevalent in sectors such as electronics, construction, catering and security.

Livesey said figures showed in 2017 49% of people rescued from modern slavery in the UK were in forced labour, an issue the construction sector has been “very concerned” about.

Public procurement will take specific efforts to raise awareness for vulnerable sectors and provide the appropriate support to facilitate change, said Livesey, by working with regulatory bodies, such as The Chartered Institute of Building and The Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority.

Speaking separately at Procurex, Malcolm Harrison, group CEO at CIPS, highlighted the importance of setting an ethical standard. “Setting that standard and then getting people to conform and comply is incredibly important.

“In terms of the focus on ethical procurement and supply and ensuring you have the right codes of conduct, we’re promoting the eradication of unethical business practices by fostering an awareness of human rights and corruption issues in all business relationships. People should be responsibly managing any business relationships where unethical practices may come to light.”

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