On 18 March 2016 the UK Home Office issued new Guidance on the duty to notify the government of instances of modern slavery or human trafficking under s. 52 of the UK Modern Slavery Act 2015 (MSA).

Section 54 of the MSA, the subject of a previous Freshfields blog post and briefing, requires certain companies both in and outside the UK to report on steps taken to make their businesses and supply chains slavery-free. 

The new Home Office Guidance provides direction on what obligations under s.52 MSA various public authorities in England and Wales (such as the police and local authorities) have to notify the Home Office when they encounter an individual they believe to be the victim of slavery or human trafficking.  The Guidance links to the National Referral Mechanism and Notification of a Potential Victim of Modern Slavery forms, which must be completed at the relevant time.

Whilst not directly relevant to the obligations of global businesses under s.54 MSA, the new Guidance is explicitly aimed at improving the Home Office’s ability to collect data on modern slavery issues—and is indicative of the continued close attention the UK government is paying to compliance in this area.

The first s.54 MSA disclosures are due this week with companies required to produce statements for the first financial year ending on or after 31 March 2016.  Although some companies have already published statements voluntarily, we expect to see significant movement in this area over the coming weeks.  NGOs and the media are likely to be keeping a close eye on developments.

Finally, the Freshfields team is conducting a webinar on the Modern Slavery Act at 9 a.m. EST on 19 April 2016 hosted by the UN Global Compact.  The session will focus on the implications of the MSA for global business, including practical guidance on how to go about MSA due diligence and drafting an MSA statement.  There will also be an opportunity for attendees to direct any questions to the panel.  Details of how to join the session will be posted closer to the date.