With their economic muscle and global connections, businesses have a huge part to play in helping eradicate modern slavery. A key part of this is publishing an annual modern slavery statement, which reports on the steps a company is taking to tackle exploitation.

City of London skyline

Many businesses are not doing this, even though some are required to do so by law. Here are three reasons why companies need to address their modern slavery statement – and do it right now.

Upcoming changes to the legal requirements on business

Beyond the moral and economic arguments for businesses taking modern slavery seriously, the legal requirements are tightening, and businesses should ask themselves whether their current statements go far enough.

In September 2020, the UK Government concluded a consultation around Section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act after criticism of existing measures.

As a result, the Government announced changes to Section 54 which will put stricter requirements on business.

This will apply to all businesses providing goods or services in the UK with a global annual turnover of £36 million or more.

For the first time, this requirement will also be placed upon public sector bodies too, in recognition of this sector’s significant spending power and supply chain risks.

The measures will likely include mandated risk assessment, human rights due diligence, single reporting dates and more stringently enforced penalties.

Outside the UK, international legal developments are placing stricter requirements on businesses around labour exploitation and supply chain transparency.

Businesses will need to demonstrate they are taking action to mitigate and remediate their risks.

Upcoming mandatory human rights due diligence is likely to be introduced in the EU in Summer 2021.

For more support in your approach to modern slavery, contact our Business Engagement Team.


The impact of Covid-19 on supply chains and modern slavery

The pandemic has affected all areas of life and has had a significant impact on modern slavery and exploitation, both globally and within the UK.

For businesses required to comply with Section 54 of The Modern Slavery Act 2015, much of what was relevant in their existing modern slavery statements will have shifted due to the pandemic and its consequences.

For businesses in sectors where demand increased dramatically during the height of the pandemic, including logistics (pictured), food and essential goods, and medical supply chains, the pressure on them to fulfil demand is likely to have meant regular due diligence was put under strain.

This is particularly so for those who had to instigate large recruitment drives at short notice, with the result that they should be closely monitoring how this has created a higher risk of exploitation going undetected.

Businesses should honestly analyse how they mitigated this, what issues were raised and what lessons can be drawn from this experience.

For those with long and complex supply chains, visibility down the tiers is difficult at the best of times and requires targeted diligence. In normal times, many businesses rely on in-person audits of sites to pick up on subtle discrepancies or subtle warning signs through real-life interactions with workers. The pandemic has effectively halted these activities across many sectors, and as such supply chain visibility is significantly reduced.

This should be realistically addressed through a robust modern slavery strategy and a practical mitigation plan that feeds into a strong modern slavery statement.

With a halt on in-person audits, what other activities could your business undertake to raise awareness and reduce risk? We would suggest, as a starting point, promotion of the Modern Slavery & Exploitation Helpline number (08000 121 700) as well as strong and effective training for suppliers and your own teams.

For more support in your approach to modern slavery, contact our Business Engagement Team.



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Justine Currell

As I came to understand more about the issue, including through a visit to an Unseen safehouse, I knew I needed to do more to stop this abuse and exploitation.

For the last five years of my Civil Service career, I was the Modern Slavery Senior Policy Advisor in the Home Office and led on development of the Modern Slavery Act, including the transparency in supply chains provision and business guidance.

I joined Unseen to lead the development of the Modern Slavery & Exploitation Helpline, and Unseen’s work with businesses. I am regularly called upon to present at national and international conferences and use my experience of working with Ministers to influence other governments internationally to take action to address modern slavery and, in particular, business supply chain issues.

In my spare time I enjoy keeping fit, music, reading and travelling.

Andrew Wallis

What ultimately compelled me to act was a report on how people from Eastern Europe were being trafficked through Bristol airport to the USA. Kate Garbers, who went on to be an Unseen Director, and I wrote to all the city councillors, MPs and the Police Chief Constable challenging them on the issue. The challenge came back to us: this city needs safe housing for trafficked women. And so Unseen began.

But we never wanted Unseen to be just about safe housing. We wanted to end slavery once and for all, and that remains our driving focus.

I chaired the working group for the Centre for Social Justice’s landmark report “It Happens Here: Equipping the United Kingdom to Fight Modern Slavery”. This is now acknowledged as the catalyst behind the UK’s Modern Slavery Act of 2015. It was a great honour to be awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours that year. On the other hand, I’ve also been described as “the loveliest disrupter you could ever hope to meet”.

This job has taken me from building flat-pack furniture for safehouses, to working with businesses to address slavery in supply chains, to delivering training, raising awareness and advising governments around the world.

When not at work, I enjoy travelling, spending time with my dog Harley, cooking, supporting Liverpool and Yorkshire CC, music (I’m a former DJ) and endurance events such as the Three Peaks Challenge and Tribe Freedom Runs – which I vow never to do again. Until the next time.