On Wednesday March 5th, the Modern Slavery Bill passed through the House of Lords with a number of key amendments to the Supply Chains clause for companies.
The Modern Slavery Bill consolidates the current offences relating to trafficking and slavery, and is due to be passed into law by May 2015. It contains a specific supply chains clause requiring businesses to report annually on the action they have taken to ensure there is no modern slavery in their business or supply chain.
The primary amendments in the House of Lords will require a director to approve or sign a company's annual slavery and human trafficking statement, and also give guidance to the areas which may be included in the annual statement. These final changes are being debated in parliament on March 17.
The UK Government has launched a consultation into the Modern Slavery Bill provision which will require businesses with turnover above a certain level to publish an annual slavery and human trafficking statement.
In this statement a business must describe the steps they have taken to ensure that slavery and human trafficking is not taking place in any of their supply chains or their own business, or they must disclose that they have taken no such steps.
The consultation is seeking views on what level of turnover a business should be required to have for this provision to apply, and on what the statutory guidance should cover.
The gulf region is currently receiving some of the largest numbers of non- forced migrant workers in the world. 1.4 million migrant workers are employed in Qatar. UAE has 146,000 migrant domestic workers alone. With that huge movement of people; all seeking a means of earning a living, issues surrounding the rights of workers and legal responsibility of host nations has been brought into sharp focus.
The 2014 Global Slavery Index report reveals Qatar to have the fourth highest concentration of slaves relative to its population, behind Haiti and Uzbekistan. It is difficult to ignore the increasing media reports in recent months on failures to uphold the rights of workers employed to build the stadiums and tourist attractions in Qatar for the 2022 world cup, as well as the recent expose on treatment of migrant domestic workers in the UAE. The traditional practice of kafala (which supersedes labour laws) effectively licenses abuse of employees by bonding them to their employer, restricting their ability to exercise rights or seek alternative employment within the country.
Corporate business is waking up to the fact that it cannot afford modern slavery. Not only because it is a liability to quality and brand integrity or because it is morally repugnant to its customers and shareholders. The conviction that business has a responsibility to raise the standard of human existence and leave a legacy of good is re-emerging as a pervasive belief in our world. The UK’s Modern Slavery Bill is on the cusp of legislating that all large companies must now report on their efforts to eradicate slavery from their supply chains. You could argue that the legislation is already late to the party.