On 26 June 2019 we invited Ben Cooley, CEO of Hope for Justice, Rob Elvin managing partner, Squire Patton Boggs (Manchester office) and Susan Baniser from the Slave-Free Alliance to join us with senior HR representatives from Greater Manchester’s largest organisations and guests to explore the state of Modern Slavery & Trafficking today and the actions we can take to end these crimes.
Globally, it is estimated that there are 24.9 million people in forced labour, sexual exploitation, or domestic servitude.
The Modern Slavery Act requires all businesses with an annual turnover above £36 million to publish a yearly statement on Modern Slavery and Trafficking, identifying what steps they are taking to ensure that slavery and human trafficking are not taking place in their business (or supply chains).
Whilst the obligation to publish a Statement only applies to larger organisations, it will have a cascading effect down the supply chain.
If SMEs sell directly to other small or medium sized businesses, or to consumers, the Act is unlikely to affect them directly, however if they deal with businesses turning over more than £36 million, they will be part of the supply chain. This means that they are likely to see contractual requirements obliging them to report on how their company operates in respect of the Act.
A recent survey found that 77% of organisations expected to find modern slavery in their operations or supply chain
So, while SMEs may not be required by law to submit an annual anti-slavery and trafficking report, being in a position to do so will boost their credibility and improve relations with any large company that requests one of them. In addition, if they are seeking to grow their company, considering these points in good time will stand them in good stead for when they cross the £36 million threshold.
In 2017, among potential adult victims, the most common reported exploitation type was labour exploitation (44%) Labour exploitation typically involves unacceptably low pay, poor working conditions or excessive wage deductions coupled with some form of coercion. Victims are usually employed in a legitimate and often low-skilled job, with legal working conditions, by an employer unrelated to the offenders. Most or all wages are taken by offenders often through control of the victims’ bank accounts.
Companies in high-risk areas might want to start paying closer attention to exactly how their suppliers manage to provide such competitive rates.
Recruiters are at higher risk of involvement in modern slavery than many other businesses, as they are likely to be the first port of call for traffickers, particularly in high risk sectors.
The consumer sector is highly vulnerable to modern slavery as a large proportion of manufacturing is outsourced, often internationally. Similarly, clothing firms are at risk when sourcing cotton, leather and any ready-made garments.
Forced labour is alarmingly prevalent within the construction industry especially amongst migrant workers who are promised jobs in other countries, only to arrive and find that things aren’t as expected.
The Modern Slavery Act 2015 requires us all to take responsibility – not just for what we do – but for what is done in our name
About the organiser
Ian Pettigrew is an elected committee member of the CIPD Manchester Branch committee with responsibility for Social Action. He is Chair of Retrak, a charity helping street children across Africa which forms part of part of Hope for Justice whose mission is ‘To exist to bring an end to modern slavery by preventing exploitation, rescuing victims, restoring lives and reforming society.’
Hope for Justice for organisations
Hope for Justice train professionals to spot the signs of trafficking and to respond, and campaign for policy change. They help businesses protect their operations and supply chains from modern slavery.
A membership scheme for businesses of all sizes who want to protect and enhance their reputations and improve the quality of the products and services they offer by ensuring the workers providing and producing them are not exploited, while also meeting their compliance requirements, improving their public image, and acting in an ethical and responsible way towards their workforce.
As an organisation whose purpose is championing better work and working lives, the CIPD wholeheartedly endorses the legislation as a crucially important development in tackling slavery and human trafficking and will not trade or partner with any business or organisation involved in this shocking practice however remotely or indirectly.