Delay in Modern Slavery reporting obligations
Under s.54 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015, certain businesses are required to publish an annual modern slavery statement setting out the steps they have taken to identify and address their risks in this regard.
Recognising the problems faced by employers during the coronavirus crisis, the Home Office has published new guidance announcing that they can delay their next modern slavery statement by up to six months without facing a penalty.
They have been informed, however, that they must continue to identify and address risks of modern slavery in their operations and supply chains and to consider how fluctuations in demand and changes in their operating model may lead to new or increased risks of labour exploitation.
Furthermore, given that suppliers may be seeking to recruit additional workers in order to meet increases in demand, businesses should ensure that they, and their suppliers, are maintaining rigorous checks during the recruitment process. This is to ensure that vulnerable workers are not being exploited by third parties seeking to profit from heightened demand.
In the context of a rapidly changing landscape, the Home Office stresses, there may be new or increased modern slavery risks in operations and supply chains. Businesses may therefore need to undertake new risk assessments or reconsider the prioritisation of previously identified risks.
The full text of the new guide can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-reporting-modern-slavery-for-businesses/modern-slavery-reporting-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-pandemic.
It makes clear that, when businesses do issue the required statement, it must include the reason for any delay.
“Businesses should use their next statement to demonstrate how they monitored their risks during this period and adapted their activities and priorities in response,” the Home Office said.