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UK food businesses need to act on modern slavery requirements

12 August 2015

As part of the Modern Slavery Act, which came into force on 31 July, all companies and partnerships operating in the UK with an annual turnover of £36m or more will have to provide a yearly statement detailing their efforts to stop supply chain slavery and trafficking. 

This is particularly pertinent for food and drink companies as well as agricultural operators across the UK, as many have international supply arrangements and rely on labour from foreign nationals and gangmasters – a practice which is already negatively misperceived by Britons.  

The requirement will come into force from October when businesses will also have to disclose if they have failed to take steps to combat slavery or trafficking. 

Peter Bennett, head of the food and drink team at Roythornes, said; “Food and drink businesses are already facing heightened pressure to ensure they have a fully accountable and comprehensive understanding of their supply chains.”

The Act comes on the back of a series of high profile scandals and damning research conducted by the Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply (CIPS) . The results, released in July 2014, showed that 11% of business leaders think it is likely that slavery is already playing a role in their supply chain. 

The results also indicated that almost three quarters (72%) of British supply chain professionals claim to have no visibility of their company’s supply chains beyond the second tier, with just over a tenth claiming to be able to see the entire chain. 

Mr Bennett added: “This legislation is formalising a requirement which is already pervasive on a social level and our industry must make every effort to comply and maintain its reputation while preventing further controversy.” 

Further measures of the Act include trafficking reparation orders, which encourage the courts to use seized assets to compensate victims, and prevention orders to ensure that those who pose a risk of committing modern slavery offences cannot work in relevant fields, such as with children or as gangmasters.

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