Justice Minister Naomi Long has today launched two consultation documents on measures to eradicate modern slavery from the supply chains of public and commercial sector organisations.
Transparency in supply chains (TISC) involves relevant businesses publishing a modern slavery statement and setting out the steps they have taken to ensure slavery and human trafficking is not taking place in any part of their business or supply chains.
The proposed changes will see a strengthening of the TISC arrangements for commercial businesses with a turnover of £36m or more and will give effect to UK-wide arrangements which the Home Office consulted on during summer 2019.
The main proposed legislative changes will mean that:
- The areas that modern slavery statements must cover will be mandated by law. If organisations have taken no steps within an area, they will have to state this clearly in their statement.
- A new government-run reporting service will be introduced to provide eligible businesses a facility to register their statements.
- A single reporting deadline is to be introduced to report on the same twelve month period (April to March).
Consideration is also being given by the Home Office to enforcement options, including financial penalties, in line with the development of a Single Enforcement Body.
The consultation also seeks views on proposals to extend TISC requirements to Northern Ireland’s public sector organisations with a budget of £36m or more for the first time.
Justice Minister Naomi Long said: “I am committed to tackling the scourge of modern slavery. Strengthening measures to address modern slavery not only helps protect vulnerable workers from severe human rights violations, it can bring a number of business benefits too. These include protecting and enhancing an organisation’s reputation and brand; and protecting and growing the organisation’s customer base as more consumers seek out businesses with higher ethical standards.
“While the main purpose of these documents is to explain and seek views on the proposed changes from those public and commercial sector organisations that will be captured by the legislative changes, I would urge all public and private sector companies to take steps to eradicate modern slavery from their supply chains. I also recognise that this is a difficult time for a wide range of organisations, I want to ensure that all companies that may be impacted by the proposals understand the proposed changes and have an opportunity to engage with officials during the consultation process. The consultation documents provide considerable advice, guidance and toolkits to assist with this.
“Through this consultation exercise, Northern Ireland’s private and public sectors are encouraged to demonstrate that there is no safe haven here from slavery of any kind, much less in our supply chains.”
The consultations will run from 17 February 2021 to 12 May 2021.
Notes to editors:
1. Further details on the consultation for public sector organisations and engagement exercise for commerical organisations is available at the consultation section of this website.
2. Commercial organisations consultation and engagement:
The United Kingdom government requires commercial organisations, through The Modern Slavery Act 2015, to report on their progress in relation to identifying and addressing modern slavery risks in both their operation and supply chains. These arrangements were extended to Northern Ireland through a Legislative Consent Motion on 19 November 2014. In July 2019 the UK Government launched a consultation on measures to strengthen these arrangements, and recently published its proposals on how it plans to take this work forward. The views expressed during this Northern Ireland consultation and engagement exercise will inform the Legislative Consent process, and assist with effective implementation of the changes.
3. Public sector organisations consultation:
Proposals are being made to extend these requirements to Northern Ireland’s public sector organisations for the first time. The United Kingdom government consulted with public bodies in England and Wales but did not consult directly with those in Northern Ireland’s proposals. So it is appropriate to consult locally with the public sector to seek views on how changes can be operationalised in Northern Ireland, and to provide advice and guidance to aid compliance.
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