Modern Slavery

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What is Modern Slavery?

The Modern Slavery Act 2018 (Cth) (‘the Act’) is the first piece of legislation in Australia to define Modern Slavery. The Act seeks to protect the rights and freedoms of individuals through mitigating the risk and occurrence of modern slavery in operations and supply chains. In doing so it broadens the concept of corporate social responsibility and accountability.

Modern Slavery can include any or all of the following:

  • trafficking in persons;
  • slavery and/or servitude;
  • forced marriage;
  • forced labour;
  • debt bondage;
  • deceptive recruiting for labour or services; and
  • the worst forms of child labour.

The requirements under the Modern Slavery Act 2018 (Cth).

The Modern Slavery legislation came into effect on 1 January 2019 with the mandate to increase transparency, accountability and reporting. While breaches of the Act will not incur any monetary penalties, an entity that fails to comply with the reporting requirements (or recommendations following unsatisfactory reporting) can be ‘named and shamed’ by the Home Affairs Minister in a published public statement of non-compliance. All reporting will be publicly available; as such, the legislation relies on the reputational incentive to drive compliant reporting.

The Act requires the lodgement of a Modern Slavery Statement (‘MSS’) by any entity that:

  • has annual consolidated revenue of at least AUD100 million over its twelve month reporting period; and
  • is either an Australian entity at any time during that reporting period; or
  • is a foreign entity conducting business in Australia at any time during that reporting period.

The Act also promotes voluntary reporting by entities of any size or national origin that want to demonstrate leadership and integrity of practice regarding modern slavery. However, the requirements of voluntary reporting can be substantial and we recommend seeking advice before embarking on this strategy.

Modern Slavery compliance

The nature of Modern Slavery means that it is generally unreported and can be very difficult to detect. An entity may believe its operations and supply chains are ‘clean’, only to later discover that it is in breach and faces the public acknowledgment of such.

In order to prevent this possibility and ensure our clients are in compliance with the Act we have developed a Modern Slavery Portal. The portal identifies Modern Slavery risk in supply chains and integrates compliance with certain mandatory reporting criteria required in MSS’s including:

  • detail of the reporting entity's structure, operations and supply chains;
  • description of the risks of Modern Slavery practices in the entity’s operations and supply chains;
  • description of the actions taken to assess and address these risks, including due diligence and remediation processes; and
  • description of how the reporting entity assesses the effectiveness of the processes and actions.

How can you start preparing?

Regardless of whether your company is required to prepare an MSS or not, it is highly beneficial to understand your supplier’s risks and the other key risks within your supply chains. Additionally, the development of a Modern Slavery compliance policy or plan that incorporates the addition of clauses to existing contracts along with staff training sessions can ensure compliance throughout your supply chain.

To initiate a Modern Slavery health check, make an enquiry about the portal, or for any other questions regarding compliance, please contact us and one of our Modern Slavery experts will be in touch to help you.

Modern Slavery Portal

Since 2021 Cowell Clarke has been committed to the UN Global Compact corporate responsibility initiative and its principles in the areas of human rights, labour, the environment and anti-corruption.