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Modern Slavery Act and Section 54

6 December 2016

What is the issue?

'Modern slavery' is a term which encapsulates slavery, servitude, forced or compulsory labour and human trafficking. These criminal offences are set out in section 1 and section 2 of the act, making a person liable if they ought to know another person is held in slavery, servitude or required to perform forced or compulsory labour.

This practice note is intended to help solicitors comply with section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 by providing practical advice and highlighting examples of good practice.

Legal status

This practice note is intended to help solicitors comply with section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 by providing practical advice and highlighting examples of good practice.

Solicitors should also refer to the government's guidance on transparency in supply chains, and other documents listed in Section 4.

The UK was the first to produce a national action plan to implement the United Nations Guiding Principles on Human Rights and Businesspublished on 4 September 2013 in the belief that the promotion of business and human rights go hand in hand and that responsible action by the private sector on human rights is good for business and communities. It helps create jobs, attracts customers and creates a sense of fairness: it contributes to a market's sustainability and therefore its potential for long-term growth.

The plan is now in its second iteration, in which specific note is made of hard law on different aspects of good corporate behaviour and respect for human rights including the Bribery Acts 2010/12, the Companies Act 2006 and the Modern Slavery Act 2015. The latter supplants existing legislation (see Note 1), toughens penalties for certain acts, and provides safeguards for victims.

Commercial organisations covered by the act are required to produce a slavery and human trafficking statement for each financial year, setting out what steps they have taken to ensure that slavery and human trafficking is not taking place in their business and supply chains.

The relationship between business and human rights is constantly evolving. This practice note will be updated to reflect changes in the legal framework and other developments as and when they arise.

 

Note 1:
The act repeals and replaces offences of human trafficking arising under section 59A of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 (inserted by section 109 of the Protection of Freedoms act 2012) and section 4 Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants) Act 2004. The act also repeals and replaces the offence of holding another person in slavery or servitude or requiring another person to perform forced or compulsory labour arising under section 71 Coroners and Justice Act 2009.
 

Terminology

Commercial organisation - For the purpose of the Modern Slavery Act, and this practice note, a commercial organisation is:

(a) a body corporate (wherever incorporated) which carries on a business, or part of a business, in any part of the United Kingdom, or
(b) a partnership (wherever formed) which carries on a business, or part of a business, in any part of the United Kingdom, and
(c) which has a turnover of £36m or above.

This includes law firms.

Statement - This refers to a modern slavery and human trafficking statement as defined in Section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act.

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