In 2018, the federal government introduced new modern slavery laws which apply in conjunction with the previous New South Wales (NSW) protections. This contains new reporting requirements for companies with an annual turnover of $100 million. Importantly, the law intends to address the global issue of modern slavery, affecting an estimated 46 million people worldwide and over 4000 people within Australia. You need to ensure that your business complies with these regulations and fulfils the necessary reporting requirements. This article explains what modern slavery is, outlines your reporting obligations and provides some tips to protect your business.

Overview of the Modern Slavery Laws 

Modern slavery is defined to include:

  • certain offences under the Criminal Code; 
  • forced labour;
  • servitude;
  • debt bondage;
  • human trafficking; and 
  • forms of child labour. 

The law requires that reporting entities must prepare and supply an annual modern slavery statement to the Minister of Home Affairs. A reporting entity includes any business that: 

  • has a consolidated revenue of at least $100 million; 
  • is an Australian entity carrying on business in Australia; or
  • is a corporate Commonwealth entity or company. 

Reporting Obligations 

If you are a reporting entity, you must prepare a modern slavery statement that is: 

  • compliant with a range of mandatory criteria; 
  • prepared in the correct form for the Minister to approve; 
  • approved by the principal governing body of the entity; 
  • signed by a responsible member of the entity; and 
  • provided to the Minister within six months after the end of the reporting period. 

What Mandatory Criteria Apply?

The law sets out certain information that you must contain in your modern slavery statement, including: 

  • details of your entity, including its structure, the nature of its business and its supply chains; 
  • risks of modern slavery practices in the operations and supply chains of your entity. 
  • actions taken by your entity to assess and address those risks, including due diligence and remediation processes, and how you assess the effectiveness of such actions;
  • consultation process with any entities that your entity owns or controls; and
  • any other information that your entity considers relevant. 

You must provide the statement to the Minister, who will put it on a national and publicly available register. 

If your entity does not provide a statement, the Minister may request an explanation about your failure to comply with the requirement. The Minister may also request that the entity undertake remedial action concerning that requirement. If you fail to comply with the request, the Minister may publish information about your noncompliance. This would appear on the register or elsewhere, including the identity of your entity.

Unlike the NSW legislation, there does not appear to be a financial penalty under the Commonwealth laws for failing to provide a modern slavery statement. The only penalty is a public “naming and shaming”. 

Tips on How to Assess Modern Slavery 

These new requirements are a step in the right direction to tackling the global problem of modern slavery. If you are an entity that is going to be caught by the new law, you must have a plan in place as to how you will go about complying with the requirement that you submit modern slavery statement.

Know Your Business and Supply Chains

This may seem like an obvious point, but it is crucial that the person in your organisation responsible for preparing this statement: 

  • is aware of your business’ operations and supply chains; and 
  • has access to all internal information relating to these matters. 

You can do this by ensuring that all the managers and employees in each relevant stream of your business can prepare reports specific to their own department. These reports can then be collated to prepare the final report. It is not practical for one person in a large organisation to have the required knowledge about all of your suppliers and so it is up to each sector of the business to provide the necessary information. 

Due Diligence

Once you have the information, it is also important to do your due diligence to ensure the reliability of this information. This is particularly important with respect to overseas suppliers. You need to understand: 

  • their business; and 
  • where and how they source the products and materials that they supply to you. 

This will help you identify where the risks are in your supply chains and put in place procedures to address those risks, including changing suppliers where you cannot adequately assess the risk. 

Subcontractors

You may not readily have access to all the necessary information about your suppliers and subcontractors and their internal practices. Therefore, it may be relevant to start including provisions in your supply contracts and subcontracts that require the supplier or subcontractor to provide you with information about its business and supply chains. This will allow you to access the necessary information to comply with your reporting obligations. 

NSW

Your entity will only need to comply with one of the legislative provisions, whether the: 

  • NSW law; or 
  • Commonwealth law. 

Therefore, if your turnover is between $50 million and $100 million, you will need to comply with the NSW legislation. If your turnover is $100 million or more, you will need to comply with the Commonwealth law. 

Key Takeaways

If your business has a revenue of at least $100 million and operates in Australia, you will need to prepare an annual modern slavery statement to submit to the Minister of Home Affairs. This should include key information about your operations and supply chain, as well as measures you are taking to prevent the risk of slavery. Although there are no financial penalties if you fail to comply with these reporting obligations, you may receive bad publicity and damage your reputation. If you have any questions regarding your reporting obligations under modern slavery laws, contact LegalVision’s business lawyers on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page.

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