Prime Minister Cameron announced on July 29 that from October 2015 the UK will require commercial organisations to publish annual slavery and human trafficking statements.

The requirement will apply to all commercial organisations – wherever they are incorporated – if they do business in the UK, supply goods or services, and have annual revenues of more than £36 million (approximately $56 million).

The requirement is effected by the Modern Slavery Act 2015. The Act completed its legislative process earlier in the year, and the announcement of the disclosure provision coming into force has coincided with Prime Minister Cameron’s visit to Vietnam, identified as the source of many people subjected to slavery in supply chains for goods sold in the UK.

The disclosure statement must

      • Be published on a commercial organisation’s website
      • Be approved by the organisation’s board of directors and be signed by a director
      • Either set out the steps that the organisation has taken during the financial year to ensure that slavery and human trafficking is not taking place in any or its supply chains and in any part of its own business, or
      • State that the organisation has taken no such steps.

The Act provides limited guidance on the content of the statement, identifying that prior to any further guidance published by the government, it may include information about:

      • the organisation’s structure, its business and its supply chains
      • its policies in relation to slavery and human trafficking
      • its due diligence processes in relation to slavery and human trafficking in its business and supply chains
      • the parts of its business and supply chains where there is a risk of slavery and human trafficking taking place, and the steps it has taken to assess and manage that risk
      • its effectiveness in ensuring that slavery and human trafficking is not taking place in its business or supply chains, measured against such performance indicators as it considers appropriate
      • the training about slavery and human trafficking available to its staff

Clearly, the purpose of the provision is to encourage commercial organisations doing business in the UK to incorporate anti-slavery measures into their compliance programs. Suppliers of those commercial organisations will also be under pressure to adopt anti-slavery measures in order to comply with their customers’ compliance regimes.

The requirement is enforceable by civil proceedings brought by the government for an injunction.