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Government proposes modern slavery bill as part of the Queen’s speech

Makbool Javaid, Partner - Simons Muirhead & Burton

Modern slavery encompasses slavery, servitude, forced and compulsory labour and human trafficking. In 2015, the Government introduced the landmark Modern Slavery Act making the UK the first country in the world to have legislation dedicated to tackling modern slavery. It has now proposed the Modern Slavery Bill as part of the Queen’s speech.

The purpose of the Bill is to strengthen the protection and support for victims of human trafficking and modern slavery and increase the accountability of companies and other organisations to drive out modern slavery from their supply chains.

The main benefits of the Bill would be reducing the prevalence of modern slavery in supply chains through increased transparency from businesses and public bodies, building on the strong foundations of the existing approach to increase the pressure on those that do not take action.

The Bill also enshrines in domestic law the Government’s international obligations to victims of modern slavery, especially regarding their rights to assistance and support and providing greater legal certainty for victims.

It also ensures that law enforcement agencies have stronger tools to prevent modern slavery occurring, protect victims of modern slavery and bring perpetrators to justice.

The main elements of the Bill are:

  • Strengthening the requirements on businesses with a turnover of £36 million or more to publish an annual modern slavery statement to set out steps taken to prevent modern slavery in their operations and supply chains.
  • Mandating the reporting areas to be covered in modern slavery statements; requiring organisations to publish their statements on a government-run registry, extending these requirements to public bodies and introducing civil penalties for organisations that do not comply with the requirements.
  • Strengthening the operation of Slavery and Trafficking Prevention Orders and Slavery and Trafficking Risk Orders, which place conditions on an individual, to prevent and disrupt modern slavery crimes and better protect victims. These will be backed up by criminal sanctions for any breaches.

The Bill will, in the main, extend and apply to England and Wales, with some provisions extending and applying across the UK.

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