A law designed to cut slave labour from the supply chains of companies operating in the UK is about to come into force, but the detail of its requirements remains unclear
Almost two centuries after the UK formally abolished slavery, the scourge of forced, bonded and trafficked labour continues. Between 21 million and 29 million people worldwide are thought to be trapped in involuntary employment, according to estimates by anti-slavery groups. The international Labour Organisation says modern slavery generates illegal profits of $150billion a year.
Although human trafficking and enslavement is evidently big business, it’s very rare to find large companies in regulated markets employing slave labour directly. Yet the risk that one of their suppliers or (more probably) sub-suppliers may be doing so is high.
For that reason, the UK government is requesting companies to take steps under the Modern Slavery Act to ensure that slave labour is not used in their supply chains. The legislation was passed in March and will come into force in October.
So are companies ready? Campaigners fear not. That’s partly because of a simple lack of awareness. Legislators decided to set the threshold for the Act’s applicability at the lower end of the proposed spectrum. Consequently, every company with annual revenues of £36m or more that is based in the UK or has UK operations has to comply – a pool of some 12,000 businesses.