The Modern Slavery Act 2015 (the “Act”) and its implications have been on the agenda since the Act came into force in 2015 to combat slavery and human trafficking in the UK. It applies not only in a particular business itself, but throughout its business supply chain. A key component of the legislation is the requirement for organisations of a certain size to draft and publish a Slavery and Human Trafficking Statement (“Statement”) each year. If it applies to your organisation the deadline for compliance is now hard upon you.
Although the Act only compels organisations with a turnover of £36 million or more to publish a Statement, the spirit of the legislation is for commercial organisations of all sizes to work together to tackle slavery and human trafficking. Whether the rules apply to academy trusts is still a grey area since a strict interpretation of the Act suggests that only commercial organisations are caught whereas Home Office Guidance suggests that academy trusts are caught.
On balance, our view is that academy trusts should comply with the Act. It is important to note that the financial threshold includes all income, including General Annual Grant (GAG) funding, capital grants and donations, so as multi academy trusts grow, more and more will meet the £36 million threshold.
The Statement itself must record the steps taken by the academy trust during the course of the year. This is not a tick-box exercise. There is deliberately no form to fill in. The organisation is expected to review the steps it has taken and state how it has applied due diligence to its responsibilities. The duty to report applies even where no steps at all have been taken; which in itself would be effectively an admission of non-compliance with the Act and possibly expose the organisation to an injunction from the Home Secretary and potential reputational damage.
Statements might include, for example:
- a reference to the academy trust adopting a new anti-slavery policy
- a summary of any anti-slavery training undertaken
- details of relevant HR practices in relation to modern slavery
- the results of any anti-slavery audits undertaken
- details of procurement practices. In particular, for example, requiring respondents to invitations to tender to have their own Statement
This is not an exhaustive list.
Academy trusts that meet the turnover threshold should publish their Statements as soon as possible following the end of the academy financial year (31 August) but in any event, it is expected that the Statement will be published within 6 months of the academy financial year-end, that is, no later than 28 February 2018.