The Home Office recently released a statement to say they will be sending letters to approximately 17,000 organisations who have not yet published a modern slavery statement, warning them that they could be named and shamed as being in breach of the law. In order to comply with the Modern Slavery Act 2015, any businesses with an annual turnover of at least £36 million must publish a statement for each financial year.
Speaking about the issue, they have said:
“Some businesses are already leading the way in taking action by being open and transparent about what they are doing to identify, tackle and prevent forced labour in their supply chains, but too many are still failing to meet their basic legal obligations,” said minister for crime, safeguarding and vulnerability Victoria Atkins.
“That’s why the Home Office is sending letters to businesses today with a clear message that continued non-compliance will not be tolerated.”
Despite being illegal, modern day slavery is still a big issue, and it’s estimated that 40.3 million people are the victims of it. This includes; 10 million children, 24.9 million people in forced labour, 15.4 million people in forced marriage, and 4.8 million people in forced sexual exploitation. (Figures taken from www.antislavery.org).
The last country to abolish slavery was the African state of Mauritania, in 1981; when a presidential decree abolished all forms of slavery. However no laws were passed to enforce the ban or make it a criminal offence until 2007 when Mauritania’s parliament passed legislation making the practice of slavery punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Slavery affects people from all backgrounds, of all ages, from all races and from all religions and countries. Those living in poverty are at greater risk of slavery due to having no prospect, many will take an offer of a ‘good job abroad’, one which sadly turns out to be something else; thus, they find themselves as slaves.
Other examples include ‘weaker communities’, one such example are the Dalits in India, who often find themselves needing to borrow money for medical treatment from wealthier people, and then fall into debt for decades, with no help from the countries corrupt authorities.
In 2014 the Home Office launched a modern slavery marketing campaign to help raise awareness that slavery exists in the UK. The campaign provided material that was developed in collaboration with partners (such as charities, the police and front line staff) to support the nationwide campaign to end modern slavery.
These types of campaigns; along with charities, individuals and businesses are all positive steps towards helping to tackle this often, forgotten crisis.
One company leadin the way in helping to tackle the issue is The Financial Times, who has include a dedicated ‘slavery statements and policies’ section on their website; in which they address the issue of modern slavery, it states:
“The Financial Times (FT) does not tolerate modern slavery or human trafficking in our organisation or in our supply chain. “
“Our code of conduct, which sets out the standards we expect of all staff, makes clear that we support universal human rights, including equal employment, freedom of speech and of association, and cultural economic and social well-being. We strongly oppose illegal or inhumane labour practices, including slavery, servitude, forced or compulsory labour and human trafficking.”
(Taken from: https://help.ft.com/help/legal/slavery-statement/)
The company is also tackling the issue of diversity, and is due to be holding a talk on diversity and inclusion in the real estate industry at it’s upcoming FT Property Summit being held in November; asking the important question: Can the industry work to lend a voice to those under-represented, and what are businesses currently doing to increase diversity and inclusion?
Other companies such as; Ford, Aviva, Prudential, and travel providers, Titan Travel also address the issue, and provide anti-slavery policies and statements.
Despite laws such as; The Modern Slavery Act 2015, and awareness amongst individuals and organisations, modern day slavery is still very much a big, often hidden problem, and definitely one that needs to be addressed on a bigger scale.
To find out more about the Financial Times event and to view their slavery statements and policies click HERE
Mr Ryan Otto – Business Adviser KTF