Your Obligations under the Modern Slavery Act

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The Modern Slavery Act (2015).

(No, these are not regulations legalizing involuntary servitude…though we alumni of Big Law Firms are familiar with the concept.)

Instead, this (unfortunately named) UK regulation is both a logical extension of compliance regulations and an early warning of legislation likely to come.  Based on your annual turnover and UK nexus (domicile or market), the Modern Slavery Act may apply to you.

In 2015, the UK became the first country to mandate that commercial organizations report on modern day slavery risks, including human trafficking, servitude, and compulsory labor.  (As of 2018, Australia is another leader in this field.)  The UK Government’s online “modern slavery statement registry” now contains over 16,000 statements from well over 14,500 organizations.

Requirements have changed over time, and now include topics such as working conditions and safety measures.  UK’s Parliament is currently debating criminal financial penalties and other amendments.  Among other proposals:

  • Criminalizing the act of knowingly (or recklessly) providing a statement that is materially false or incomplete.
  • Criminalizing the act of continuing to source from suppliers after having been issued a formal warning re same by the “Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner.”
  • For both crimes, imposing criminal fines of 2 years of incarceration and/or a fine amounting to 4% of global turnover and capped at £20 million (or approximately US$27.7 million.) [At this point, a rational actor might conclude that some prophylactic legal advice and documentation would be helpful.]

And…as you can imagine, dear reader, there is a particular focus is on the UK’s complicated relationship with China and its supply chains.  (The United States has taken a different tact by imposing targeted sanctions.)  In both cases, we are confident in seeing additional work for lawyers…and hope that the end result is more ethical global supply chains.

The world being complicated, the only constant is change.  Independent of the nature of your business’s changing legal needs, The Wallenstein Law Group is here to help. Contact us today!

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