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Is a Modern Slavery Statement on Your Post-Holiday To-Do List?

We have written previously about the UK’s Modern Slavery Act (the “MSA”) and, in particular, how it applies to multinational businesses. But many companies, including those headquartered in the U.S. with operations in the UK, are still unaware of their obligations. The new year may be the right time to consider whether your company has met those obligations. For those that have already published their first statement, it may be time to update that statement. For those who have not yet published a statement, it is probably the right time to consider whether you are required to do so.

Our earlier posts on the MSA discuss which businesses are covered and their obligations.

Recently, the UK government has updated its guidance on MSA compliance, including:

  • Organisations with turnover below the £36m threshold can choose to voluntarily produce a statement, and the UK government is encouraging them to do so;
  • The government reiterates that annual statements should now aim to include information regarding all six sub-categories of Article 54(5) of the MSA, including organisational structure, applicable policies, and the company’s due diligence process, among other items;
  • New guidance aimed at companies’ internal review and approval procedures, noting the requirement that senior management within the organisation is required to approve and sign the statement;
  • Organisations are encouraged to keep the previous years’ statements available online even if new ones have been published, to allow the public and possible investors to compare the statements and to monitor progress;
  • A definition of “child labour” has been provided, stating that, despite children being particularly vulnerable to exploitation, child labour will not always constitute modern slavery, while specifically listing the worst forms of child labour that are very likely to constitute modern slavery;
  • The updated guidance advises organisations to include modern slavery and human rights issues in general in their due diligence procedures wherever possible; and
  • The updated guidance provides a link to the NGO Unseen, a modern slavery helpline (08000 121 700).
  • If you have not considered the MSA and whether your organisation has an obligation under it, the start of the new year is the perfect time to look into this issue. And if you have already published your first statement, take the time to ensure that it complies with newly published guidance.

[Editors’ Note: For our American readers, please note that Mr. Luff and Ms. Kucharikova practice (or as they would likely say, practise) in V&E’s London office. In consideration of our British colleagues’ sensibilities, we have decided to keep their original spelling and punctuation choices, like the peculiar spelling of “organization.”]

This information is provided by Vinson & Elkins LLP for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended, nor should it be construed, as legal advice.