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Modern slavery statements and charities

What is the Modern Slavery Act 2015?

The Modern Slavery Act 2015 (MSA) brings several different measures together as part of the UK’s efforts to combat modern slavery.

What does ‘modern slavery’ mean?

The MSA refers to slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour, in line with the Article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Anti-Slavery International gives some examples of what modern slavery can include – including forced labour, debt bondage, human trafficking and forced or early marriage.

The MSA does lots of different things – but we’re focusing on slavery and human trafficking statements, often called modern slavery statements, here.

If an organisation is required to publish a modern slavery statement, it must do so in each financial year, and its website should link directly to the statement. The rest of this guide covers:

  • who needs to publish modern slavery statements
  • whether charities who don’t need to publish statements need to worry about them
  • what’s in a modern slavery statement
  • what questions charities might ask themselves when publishing statements or answering questions about modern slavery.

Do you need to publish a modern slavery statement?

A charity has to be incorporated for a modern slavery statement to be required. It can be a charitable company or a charitable incorporated organisation. You also need to have a turnover of more than £36m and be carrying on a business – which includes a trade or profession – in the UK.

What does ‘turnover’ mean here?

Turnover is the amount charged for goods and services you provide, minus any discounts and taxes you pay.

What if your charity is a subsidiary?

If you’re a subsidiary of a larger organisation whose total turnover (including subsidiaries) is over £36m and which carries on a business in the UK, it will need to publish a statement.

If your turnover is over £36m on its own, you both have an obligation to provide a statement – but the parent organisation can publish one covering both of you, so long as it covers both of your activities.

The vast majority of charities do not need to draw up a modern slavery statement by law. But there is nothing to stop you publishing one if you want, and the CORE, the UK civil society coalition on corporate accountability, considers it best practice for charities with a turnover of more than £36m to publish statements.

If you don’t need to publish a statement, do you need to worry?

The law could still affect you if you supply goods or services to, or work with, larger organisations. They may need to provide a modern slavery statement themselves, and supply chains are a core reason for requiring them in the first place. As well as businesses, this could include:

  • large incorporated charities, who need to produce a modern slavery statement if they carry on a business (including a trade or profession) in the UK
  • public authorities, whose legal status under the Act is debatable, but some of whom produce modern slavery statements.

This means that, if you’re working with or supplying goods or services to larger charities or businesses, they may ask you questions in order to compile their own modern slavery statements.

The picture is more mixed with public authorities due to the legal uncertainty, but some local authorities and NHS bodies (for example) do publish modern slavery statements – which means that, if you are commissioned by a public body, they may also ask for information from you for their statements.

What must a modern slavery statement include?

An organisation’s modern slavery statement must include:

  • the steps it has taken during the financial year to ensure that slavery and human trafficking is not taking place in any of its supply chains and in any part of its own business, or
  • a statement that it has taken no such steps.

A modern slavery statement can cover:

  • structure, business and supply chains
  • policies on slavery and human trafficking
  • due diligence covering slavery and human trafficking in business and supply chains
  • 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
  • effectiveness in ensuring that slavery and human trafficking is not taking place in its business or supply chains, measured against performance indicators
  • training about slavery and human trafficking available to staff.

Other relevant issues can also be covered, but the Act provides the above as examples.

What questions should you be thinking about?

These are some good questions to ask yourself if you’re putting a statement together – or if you’ve been asked about your approach to modern slavery:

How high is the risk of modern slavery in the area your charity works in?

Some sectors and parts of the world are higher risk than others. Sectors which rely upon low-skilled labour, or on temporary, seasonal, or agency workers, are relatively high-risk. So are areas involving work of a dangerous or physically demanding nature.

What policies do you have in place to minimise risks?

Depending on your existing guidance and the level of risk in the areas you work in, this might mean a bespoke policy on modern slavery, or it might mean appropriate references in general guidance.

What questions do you ask your contractors or suppliers (if you have any)?

Recruitment is a major area of risk for modern slavery, for instance. If you use recruitment agencies, do they carry out appropriate checks? Do they commit not to charge workers for any part of the recruitment process?

It’s also a good idea to address the six areas specified in the MSA. Your responses will be informed by your level of risk. This is a starting point – not a full guide.

Further reading

The Home Office has issued guidance on the issues around modern slavery statements in transparency in supply chains (pdf, 1.77MB). CORE has also published documents giving recommended content for modern slavery statements (pdf, 88KB), examples of good and bad practice (pdf, 90KB) and a fuller briefing on effective reporting under the MSA (pdf, 5.08MB).

You can see a series of modern slavery statements published by charities here. You might also be interested to read Marks and Spencer’s guide for its suppliers (pdf, 1.0MB), to give an idea of what some proactive businesses are asking for. Kemp and Little LLP produced some guidance aimed at suppliers (pdf, 526KB).

Page last edited Jan 15, 2018

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