Following the Home Office’s 2020 response to the 2019 ‘Transparency in Supply Chains Consultation’, the UK government has launched an online central registry of statements published in compliance with requirements under section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015. The aim of the registry is to make it easier for businesses and the public to find and review commercial organizations’ modern slavery statements. Reporting organizations are not yet legally obliged to upload their statements to the official registry. However, the Home Office is encouraging reporting organizations to do so voluntarily before the final amendments to the Modern Slavery Act take effect and make utilizing the government’s registry obligatory.
A commercial entity trading in the United Kingdom is obliged to publish a Modern Slavery Act statement if the entity meets all of the following criteria:
- ‘it is a ‘body corporate’ or a partnership, wherever incorporated or formed’;
- ‘it carries on a business, or part of a business, in the UK’;
- ‘it supplies goods or services’; and
- ‘it has an annual turnover of £36 million or more’.
The launch of the registry is the first of several recommended changes to come into effect. In addition, the Home Office has stated in its Summary of Commitments its intention to introduce the following changes when amendments to the Modern Slavery Act are presented to Parliament:
- extending the reporting requirements of the Modern Slavery Act to include public bodies;
- making the current list of recommended topics to be covered in the modern slavery statement compulsory;
- requiring publication of statements in the government’s modern slavery statement registry;
- instituting an annual reporting deadline of 30 September; and
- authorizing civil penalties for noncompliance.
Currently, rates of noncompliance with Modern Slavery Act obligations are high, as the penalties for failing to comply with the act’s requirements are limited. Employers may want to be aware that the new registry is the first step towards a more robust enforcement regime and that the enhanced transparency that the central registry brings may pose reputational risk to organizations that fail to comply with the reporting obligations.