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On Tuesday (11 July 2015), we featured in Comet an interview with Claire Falconer, legal director of Focus on Labour Exploitation. She spoke to us about the Modern Slavery Act 2015 (MSA 2015) and the reporting requirements under the new Act.
Today, Claire discusses the implications for companies if they do not comply with this new law.
The legal risks to a company include criminal liability under MSA 2015, Pt 1 and injunctive action under MSA 2015, s 54.
It is not clear on the face of MSA 2015, but it may be possible for a company to itself be held criminally liable for forced labour, slavery, servitude or human trafficking where the principles of corporate criminal liability are fulfilled for offences committed by an official of the company in the course of their employment.
Company officials or employees can also be held individually criminally responsible if they are directly involved in committing slavery or human trafficking offences.
Under MSA 2015, s 54, companies who fail to comply with their obligations to prepare or publish a slavery and human trafficking statement may be the subject of proceedings brought by the Secretary of State for specific performance of a statutory duty.
The failure to comply, or to fully and truthfully comply, with the MSA 2015, s 54 reporting requirement should also have commercial and reputational consequences for companies.
The requirement to publish the slavery and human trafficking statement on the company’s website means that this information is easily accessible to the public and to advocacy organisations.
In the US, the Know the Chain initiative has collected and assessed the statements of hundreds of companies, and publicly identified those companies who have failed to adequately comply with their reporting requirements under the Californian Transparency in Supply Chains Act (SB657).
It is likely that similar civil society efforts in the UK will ‘name and shame’ both those companies who fail to comply, and those companies who are considered to be doing too little to prevent and address severe exploitation in their supply chains.
So what do you think? As always, we welcome any views that you may have on this important subject. Do feel free to let us have your thoughts below.
In the meantime, why not check out the work that LexisNexis is undertaking in this area as part of its 'Rule of Law' initiative (including the recent launch of the Global Rule of Law Business Principles):
LexisNexis is committed to combating human trafficking by offering direct financial support and legal and technical advice to organizations working in the field to eradicate the illegal trade wherever it exists.
For more information, click here.
Interviewed by Susan Ghaiwal. The views expressed by our Legal Analysis interviewees are not necessarily those of the proprietor.
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