Modern Slavery Update: Reporting during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) period
Requirement to publish a statement
Under Section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act ("MSA"), certain businesses are required to publish an annual modern slavery statement setting out the steps they take to prevent modern slavery in their business and their supply chains.
Recap: Who needs to publish an MSA statement?
An organisation is required to publish an MSA annually if it meets all the following requirements:
- a 'body corporate' or partnership, wherever incorporated or formed;
- carries on a business, or part of a business, in the UK;
- supplies goods or services; and
- has an annual turnover of £36 million or more
For further information on preparing your MSA statement please see here.
Addressing and reporting on risks
The challenges faced by a more remote and decentralised working environment may make some people more vulnerable to modern slavery during the coronavirus. The government stresses that businesses still need to report on the actions taken during this period, and should consider:
Coronavirus poses new and increased modern slavery risks and businesses should meet these with a revised risk assessment to identify any employees in their workforce that may be particularly vulnerable during the crisis period.
Health and safety of workers:
Relevant local or national government policies on health and safety measures should be carefully implemented throughout the business supply chain (such as adopting social distancing measures and statutory sick pay requirements). See more on such health & safety requirements in our related article here.
Businesses should engage with suppliers on current obligations, such as paying for orders already in production if financially possible. Early engagement may mitigate the risk of late cancellation leading to workers not receiving wages for work they have completed.
Workers should still be able to access grievance procedures and that new or adapted procedures for coronavirus are made available if required.
Certain sectors may see a demand surge requiring extra recruitment. Businesses and suppliers must ensure rigorous checks are maintained to ensure vulnerable workers are not being exploited by third parties in profiteering from the demand increases.
Notwithstanding the temporary extension of time to publish their MSA statements, businesses should not assume that the pandemic offers them an excuse for failing to publish their MSA statements or adequately updating their risk assessments and related practices. Going forward, new MSA statements should clearly set out what new risks businesses are facing during the pandemic and how such risks have been proactively monitored and managed.
To read the new Government guidance in full, please see here.