United Kingdom - What you need to know

The Modern Slavery Act 2015 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It is designed to combat modern slavery in the UK and consolidates previous offences relating to trafficking and slavery. The act extends to England and Wales. The bill was introduced to the House of Commons in draft form in October 2013 by James Brokenshire, Parliamentary Under Secretary for Crime and Security. The bill’s sponsors in the Home Office were Theresa May and Lord Bates. It received Royal Assent and became law on 26 March 2015

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The Modern Slavery Act is a globally leading piece of legislation. It sets out a range of measures on how modern slavery and human trafficking should be dealt with in the UK. Whilst not all of the Act is directly relevant for business, section 54 entitled ‘Transparency in supply chains’ impacts the corporate sector. The Act, which came into force on 29th October 2015, requires many businesses to disclose a ‘slavery and human trafficking statement’.

 Our team of specialists were involved in the early consultation of the Act, were named as a key contributor in UK Government’s ‘Practical Guide’ for companies and have already been advising a number of clients on how to manage modern slavery risks in their operations and their supply chains.

We have prepared two briefing papers to help guide businesses through this complex topic and would be happy to speak with you directly to share experiences and support you in your activities.

Who needs to report?

Entities will need to report under the Commonwealth Act if they are an Australian entity or carry on business in Australia with a minimum annual consolidated revenue of $100 million. 

The Modern Slavery Act 2018 (NSW) (NSW Act) is not yet in force and is currently subject to Parliamentary review. On 6 August 2019, the Legislative Council Standing Committee on Social Issues announced an inquiry into the NSW Act. The Committee’s recommendations are due on 14 February 2020. The New South Wales Government will await these recommendations before progressing its response to modern slavery.

What does reporting entail?

Reporting obligations relate to the risk of modern slavery in the operations and supply chain of a reporting entity (and its owned and controlled entities), as well as the steps it has taken to respond to the risks identified. 

Unlike other jurisdictions, the reporting criteria in Australia are mandatory.  Reporting entities must have a reasonable basis for any opinions expressed in their Modern Slavery statement, so it is important that reporting entities take the time to assess their risk.  The reporting criteria can be found here.

What should entities do?

It is crucial that reporting entities begin reviewing their supply chains and operations to comply with the new reporting obligations.

What is the timing? 

A modern slavery statement must be submitted within six months after the end of the reporting entity’s financial year.  The reporting period is the entity’s first full financial year that commences after 1 January 2019. 

Entity’s annual financial reporting period

First reporting period under the Commonwealth Act

Due date for statement

1 July to 30 June

1 July 2019 to 30 June 2020

31 December 2020

1 January to 31 December

1 January 2020 to 31 December 2020

30 June 2021

1 April to 31 March

1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020

30 September 2020

Lodgment and publication

Reporting entities must provide their approved modern slavery act statement to the Australian Border Force for publication on an on-line public register.