Food Update: New rules to prevent modern slavery - does it affect you?

Large employers required to publish anti-slavery and human trafficking statements.

Earlier this year there was criticism of Tesco, Walmart and Costco for selling prawns supplied by Thai company CP Foods, who, it was alleged sourced the product from suppliers which used slave labour.

On October 29th 2015 a new requirement, introduced by the Modern Slavery Act 2015, came into force aiming to address exploitation of workers. It applies to businesses with an annual global turnover over £36 million, and requires them to set out the steps they have taken to ensure that slavery and human trafficking is not taking place at any point in their supply chain in a statement.

The Act consolidates existing legislation relating to slavery, forced labour and human trafficking. It puts a huge onus on those with a complex chain of suppliers; particularly where this extends overseas where there is less regulation.

Although the requirement is now  in force the transitional provisions mean that the first businesses who will need to produce a statement are those with a financial year end after 31 March 2016.

Food production and food processing businesses are amongst the sectors considered vulnerable to exploitation due to the use of low paid unskilled labour. Under this new legislation a slavery and human trafficking statement will have to be published for each financial year – or, if no steps have been taken by the business to root out slavery or trafficking in their supply chain, they are required to state this is the case. However such a negative statement may have a reputational impact. The statement will need to be signed off at board level to ensure that those at the very top of the organisation address this issue seriously. There must also be a prominent link to the statement on the organisations website. If the organisation does not have a website it will be required to provide a copy of the statement to anyone who makes a written request within 30 days.

As the £36m threshold applies globally it catches all companies carrying out any part of their business in the UK and is not restricted to companies incorporated in the UK only

The penalties

What you need to do

Your polices on slavery and human trafficking

Your due diligence processes in your business and your supply chains

The parts of your businesses and supply chains where there is a risk of slavery and human trafficking taking place - and what steps you take to assess the risks

Your group’s effectiveness in ensuring that slavery and human trafficking is not happening in your business or supply chains

The training you give your staff  to enable them to spot any risks to your business

Transparent in Supply Chains etc - A practical guide.

However the Government does expect that the statements prepared by businesses will be relevant and specific to the organisation. Therefore what’s right for your business may not necessarily be the same for others.

If your organisation reaches the £36million threshold and you would like advice on preparing your statement please contact a member of our team as you will need to address these issues carefully.

The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the date of publication and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.