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Modern Slavery Act obligation hits large companies as first reporting deadline arrives

Square One Law is highlighting the requirement of large businesses to declare their commitment to eradicating modern slavery following the implementation of government legislation and a recent vow by Theresa May to make it her mission to help rid the world of its 'barbaric evil.'

The majority of companies with a minimum turnover of £36m, whose financial year falls after 31 March 2016, are required to disclose publicly the steps they are taking to ensure both their businesses and their supply chains are free from modern slavery.

Square One Law has seen an increase in instructions from companies meeting the obligation, but the Newcastle-based practice believes there will be a large cohort of businesses that will not have addressed the requirement.

Companies that meet these criteria must produce a statement each financial year setting out the steps taken to ensure that modern slavery does not occur within the business or its supply chains.

Statements are expected to be published as soon as reasonably practicable after the company’s year end, within a window of around six months. The statement must be published on the company’s website with a link to it in a prominent place on the home page.

It is reported that nearly 0.5% of the world’s population live in modern slavery and the issue remains high on the global agenda. As a result, the Prime Minister, Theresa May, introduced The Modern Slavery Act 2015 when she was Home Secretary to confirm the UK Government’s commitment to eradicating the practice.

Eleanor Wilkinson, Senior Associate in the Employment Team at Square One Law, said: “The Government has been very clear about its intention to play its part in stamping out modern slavery, which has an impact on businesses and their supply chains.

“The vast majority of companies may not see a direct link between their operations and this abhorrent practice, but as a result of the creation of the Modern Slavery Act, large companies have to adhere to new reporting obligations with the aim of increasing transparency in supply chains.”

Eleanor added: “Square One Law has been working with companies to help determine whether the obligations apply to them and, for those impacted, assist with developing polices and procurement and supply chain management procedures to ensure they meet the legislative requirements.

“Businesses that have yet to investigate whether the legislation applies to them should act soon or face potential injunctive proceedings or, even more costly, reputational damage.”

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