Modern Slavery Legislation: What business needs to know
The Modern Slavery Act 2018 (Cth) (“the Act”) received royal assent on 10 December 2018. The Act requires entities based or carrying on business in Australia, which have an annual consolidated revenue of more than $100 million, to report annually on the risks of modern slavery in their operations and supply chains, and actions to address those risks.
Notably, unless otherwise proclaimed, the commencement of the provisions relating to reporting on modern slavery commence 6 months from the date of receiving royal assent (i.e. 11 June 2019).
The reports, or modern slavery statements as they are referred to in the Act, are to be kept by the Minister for Home Affairs in a public repository known as the Modern Slavery Statements Register. Statements on the register may be accessed by the public, free of charge, on the internet.
Modern slavery is defined in the Act and includes, inter alia, conduct which would constitute an offence under division 270 or 271 of the Criminal Code (which includes slavery, servitude, forced labour, deceptive recruiting for labour or services, forced marriage offences, offences of trafficking in persons, offence of trafficking in children, offence of domestic trafficking in persons, offence of trafficking in children, offence of debt bondage) which occurs in Australia or would constitute an offence under those divisions if the conduct took place in Australia. The Act extends to acts, omissions, matters and things which occur outside Australia.
Entities are required annually, within 6 months after the end of the financial reporting period for the entities, to provide to the Minister a modern slavery statement describing the risks to modern slavery operations and supply chains of reporting entities and entities owned or controlled by those entities. The modern slavery statement must comply with the requirements set out in the Act and be “in a manner approved by the Minister”.
Whilst there are currently no penalties imposed where an entity fails to provide a modern slavery statement, the Minister is empowered to rectify an entity’s non compliance by giving a written request to the entity to:
(a) provide an explanation of the failure to comply within a minimum period of 28 days; and/or
(b) undertake specified remedial action such as to provide a modern slavery statement.
If the entity does not comply with such a request, the Minister may publish on the register, or in any other way the Minister considers appropriate:
(a) the identity of the entity/entities;
(b) the date that request was given and any extensions of time given to comply;
(c) details of the explanation or remedial action requests; and
(d) the reasons why the Minister is satisfied that the entity has failed to comply with the request.
Accordingly, entities should consider their organisational policies with respect to procurement and human rights, consider appropriate modern slavery related clauses within contracts, and institute audit and investigations to ensure that the organisation is transparent and accountable under the new laws. Inclusion of requirements relating to modern slavery in organisational codes of conduct and ensuring all staff are across such requirements is also indeed advisable.
Important Disclaimer: The content of this publication is general in nature and for reference purposes only. It is current at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be obtained before taking any action based on this publication.