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Modern Slavery Act 2015: government response to transparency in supply chains consultation

On 22 September 2020, the UK government published a response (Response) to its transparency in supply chains consultation.  It is a legal requirement for certain commercial organisations to produce an annual slavery and human trafficking statement (Statement).  The Home Office’s Transparency in Supply Chains Guidance (Guidance) complements the MSA by setting out guidance and best practices on this requirement. The government has now made various proposals in the Response aimed at improving the reporting process, the key ones being:

  • Legislating for the contents of Statements. The MSA currently lists areas that organisations may want to include in their Statement. The government is proposing that these suggestions are codified into legislation, making them mandatory issues that the Statement must cover.
  • Legislating for Statements to include the date of when the Statement was approved by the organisation and when it was signed by the relevant person. This would translate the recommended best practice in the Guidance into law.
  • Introducing a new statutory single reporting deadline. There is currently no statutory prescribed time limit on when an organisation must publish its Statement. In the government’s view, requiring organisations to publish their Statement by a fixed deadline would make it easier to compare the activities and progress of similar organisations for the same defined period.
  • Requiring organisations to publish their Statements on a government-run website. The MSA currently provides for organisations to publish Statements on their own websites. The proposal is that this existing requirement is kept, meaning that Statements will be published on both an organisation’s website and a new government-run website.

The Response also proposes a significant change to the remit of the current legal requirement by extending it to include public bodies that meet a specific budget threshold. Currently, government initiatives and measures to improve transparency within its own supply chains are voluntary.

The Response does not provide a timetable for implementing these proposals. Instead, it states that “for all measures which require legislative change, the Home Office’s intention is to introduce this when parliamentary time allows”.