Modern Slavery Act and procurement explained
This is everything you need to know about the Modern Slavery Act and how it ties into public sector procurement.
With lots of discussions of social value taking place, we thought it was an apt moment to reflect on the Modern Slavery Act 2015. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that there are 25 million people in forced labour across the world. It is thought to be prevalent across the UK and can occur in any business sector.
Firstly, this blog will recap and explore what is define as “modern slavery,” and the Modern Slavery Act 2015. Then, we shall delve into what suppliers can do to meet relevant procurement policies relating to modern slavery.
What is “Modern Slavery?”
First things first, The UK Government defines modern slavery as “… the recruitment, movement, harbouring or receiving of children, women or men through the use of force, coercion, abuse of vulnerability, deception or other means for the purpose of exploitation.”
The following definitions are encompassed within the term ‘modern slavery’ for the purposes of the Modern Slavery Act 2015.
- ‘slavery’ is where ownership is exercised over a person
- ‘servitude’ involves the obligation to provide services imposed by coercion
- ‘forced or compulsory labour’ involves work or service extracted from any person under the menace of a penalty and for which the person has not offered himself voluntarily
- ‘human trafficking’ concerns arranging or facilitating the travel of another with a view to exploiting them.
What is the Modern Slavery Act?
Essentially, it gives law enforcement the tools to fight modern slavery, ensure perpetrators can receive suitably severe punishments for these appalling crimes and enhance support and protection for victims.
What does this mean for suppliers? Section 54 of the act requires organisations that carry on a business or part of a business in the UK and that provide goods and services to report annually on the steps that they have taken during the financial year to ensure that slavery and human trafficking are not taking place in their own business or in their supply chains.
Is it mandatory for an organisation to have a modern slavery statement?
Section 54 of the act’s requirements apply to organisations with a turnover of £36 million or more, including turnover of subsidiaries. However, organisations who make less than the threshold are still able to publish a modern slavery statement. As of earlier this year, the Home Office set up a statement registry for organisations to publish their modern slavery statements.
Modern slavery and procurement policies…
Now that we have defined modern slavery, let’s turn our attention to the relevant procurement policies. Although there are several to be mentioned, this blog focuses on Procurement Policy Note PPN 05/19 and Procurement Policy Note PPN 06/20.
Tackling Modern Slavery in Government Supply Chains
The “Tackling Modern Slavery in Government Supply Chains” guidance, announced through the publication of Procurement Policy Note PPN 05/19, aims to help both suppliers and buyers “understand the risks of modern slavery in supply chains, and take appropriate action to identify and address those risks”. The guidance sets out the factors that buyers should consider when identifying high risk supply chains.
The guidance is applicable to all procurement activity, regardless of the size of the contract in question or the budget of the authority. It does however make clear that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to assessing public contracts and suppliers. Buyers are advised to tailor their actions according the nature of each contract and to act proportionately in order to avoid imposing unnecessary burdens that would deter suppliers.
The Social Value Model
Back in September 2020, the publication of Procurement Policy Note (PPN) 06/20 launched a new model to deliver social value through government’s commercial activities. Modern slavery is highlighted as part of that new model for delivering social value.
In a policy outcome for theme four, public sector suppliers are asked to; “Demonstrate action to identify and manage the risks of modern slavery in the delivery of the contract, including in the supply chain.”
The incorporation of modern slavery into the newly created social value model solidates the issue as an on-going priority. This is also demonstrated in the publication of the UK government’s modern slavery statement (2020). As the Prime Minister stated last year, “If we are serious about tackling this increasingly pervasive evil then words alone are not enough – we have to take active steps to drive it out of our supply chains.”
Now that we have explored which procurement policies relate to modern slavery, let’s turn our attention to what suppliers can do to ensure they follow best practices.
The role of CCS…
Firstly, the structure of CCS’ frameworks help suppliers to follow best practices. CCS aim to ensure that all framework suppliers understand the risks of modern slavery in supply chain. In the selection questionnaire, which all suppliers must complete, they cover the provisions of the Modern Slavery Act 2015, and the Public Sector Contract which has been in use since 2017 includes a corporate social responsibility schedule.
This requires suppliers to:
- meet with the standards set out in the Supplier Code of Conduct, which include requirements to comply with the Modern Slavery Act 2015.
- include anti-slavery and human trafficking provisions in their contracts.
- implement policies and procedures to identify and prevent modern slavery occurring in their supply chain.
- prepare an annual statement setting out the steps they have taken to tackle modern slavery in any part of their business or supply chain.
Three actions suppliers can take
Here are our three top tips for suppliers to ensure they follow best practices:
- Suppliers can utilise the UK.GOV’s Modern Slavery Assessment Tool. This tool has been designed to help public sector organisations work in partnership with suppliers to improve protections and reduce the risk of exploitation of workers in their supply chains.
- Take a read of the guidance “Tackling Modern Slavery In Government Supply Chains” (2019). This was published by the Home Office and Cabinet Office, in consultation with the cross-government Modern Slavery and Procurement Implementation Group.
- Complete an internal audit of your internal and external policies relating to modern slavery and your supply chain.
Resources you may wish to read:
- Home Office, Modern slavery awareness booklet (2017).
- Local Government Association (LGA), Modern slavery in local government supply chains: transparency statement guidance and procedures (2020).
- Independent Review of the Modern Slavery Act 2015: Final Report (2019).