In response to today's coverage, a spokesperson at Anthony Collins Solicitors said:
With the threat of slavery persisting in modern times, the Government commissioned an independent review of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 (“the Act”) in July 2018, to determine the effectiveness of the Act and to suggest potential improvements.
The outcome of that review was published in May 2019 which highlighted areas for improvement. The Government have now published their response, which can be found here.
Review of the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner and Independent Child Trafficking Advocate roles
The review made a number of recommendations, including greater independence of the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner role, and greater clarity around the role of Independent Child Trafficking Advocates. The Government rejected the review’s findings that the Commissioner role lacks independence on the basis that it is constrained by Government influence, but plans to issue statutory guidance about how Independent Child Trafficking Advocates (to be renamed Independent Child Trafficking Guardians) should work with public authorities.
While further guidance on the Independent Child Trafficking Advocates role is welcome, it is questionable whether the Government is really in a position to decide that the Commissioner’s role is already sufficiently independent of the Government. Clearly, the Government feels the Commissioner is sufficiently independent to hold the Government to account, although it has accepted that improvements can be made so that the Commissioner is less influenced by the Home Office.
Changes to Section 54 and transparency in supply chains
The review also looked into the effectiveness of the transparency requirements in Section 54 of the Act. Currently, these transparency requirements require commercial organisations ¹ to publish statements on what steps they are taking to ensure human trafficking is not taking place in their supply chains. The Government is now proposing to extend this duty to public bodies (including local authorities) whose annual budget exceeds £36 million and further develop the extent to which public bodies should be brought within the remit of the Act.
The Government also proposes the following:
- to improve the quality of Section 54 statements by strengthening guidance, including issuing a template to show the information reporting organisations are expected to provide;
- to remove the option to say that “no steps” have been taken as a way to demonstrate compliance with the Act;
- to set up a single reporting deadline to help identify those not responding; and
- to publish an online register where all statements would be submitted, recorded and available publicly.
This means that the burden on organisations is likely to increase, as they will need to dedicate more resource to carry out due diligence against their supply chains, as well as report on them in more detail. These changes also make it even more important for organisations to comply with their modern slavery reporting obligations, as the changes will make it easier to identify those organisations not complying, and in turn make it easier to apply sanctions for non-compliance. The Government has issued a consultation on these proposals, where organisations can submit their views and feedback. The deadline for responses is 17 September 2019 and you can find the consultation here.
The Government rejected some of the review’s recommendations that enforcement powers for non-compliance should be increased. The Government wants to encourage disclosures about instances and risks of modern slavery, and it is concerned that heavy enforcement might create an “overly compliance-driven” approach that would be counterproductive and discourage detailed disclosures. On the one hand, this reflects that modern slavery is an issue that needs to be taken seriously, and that compliance should not be viewed as a “tick box” exercise. However, the risk of this approach is that the requirements of the Act lack “teeth”. Given that historically, companies have under-reported regarding modern slavery, the Government’s stance risks being naïve.
Ultimately, the changes mean that organisations already caught by the Act should be reviewing their modern slavery reporting processes to ensure they are up-to-date and their reporting is sufficiently robust to stand up to scrutiny. As this new obligation is likely to extend to them in the future, public authorities with a budget of £36 million or above should be starting to prepare by examining their existing supply chains and considering how this duty can be satisfied within their procurement processes.
1. Those organisations who engage in commercial activities (including not-for-profits) with a turnover (or group turnover) of £36 million or above.
In the first of a series, this article examines the impact of the Derby case on how local authorities should apply and charities can claim business rate relief.
“Monitoring the Mental Health Act in 2018/19” published by the CQC, has found that although improvements have been made, healthcare services need to do more to comply with their human rights duties.
The IPPR North report says that this Parliament must be the “Devolution Parliament” to truly “level up” the country.
On 20 January 2020, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) issued Advice for Building Owners of Multi-storey, Multi-occupied Residential Buildings.
The Society for Computers and Law (SCL) has introduced an Adjudication Scheme for IT Projects and Services.
The board of a housing services company was reportedly dismissed in December 2019 following the discovery of a variety of safety and hygiene issues in the properties they manage.
The Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regulations 2014 (the Regulations) place certain responsibilities on anyone supplying and charging for heating, cooling or hot water (the heat supplier).
In our latest Company Secretary Update, we focus on the Queen’s Speech over Christmas and the recommendations and commitments in relation to housing.
So after two days of legal argument, the Supreme Court have now retired to reach their decision in the joined cases of Tomlinson-Blake v the Royal Mencap Society and Shannon v Rampersad.
To receive invitations to our events, as well as information and articles on legal issues and sector developments that are of interest to you, please sign up to Newsroom.