At least six leading law firms have already published modern slavery and human trafficking statements, according to research that suggests a ‘lacklustre’ response among the FTSE 500.
The Modern Slavery Act, which came into force last year, requires commercial organisations with an annual turnover exceeding £36m to produce a statement on their website.
A link to the statement must appear prominently on the website homepage.
Government guidance states that organisations are encouraged to publish a statement within six months of the last financial year-end.
The statement must reflect steps the organisation has taken during the previous financial year to ensure that slavery and human trafficking is not taking place in their supply chains or their own business.
Should an organisation fail to publish a statement, the government may seek a High Court injunction requiring compliance.
Research conducted by risk and compliance firm VinciWorks shows that six law firms have published statements so far: DAC Beachcroft, Bevan Brittan, Clarke Willmott, Freeths, TLT Solicitors and Weightmans.
However, there has been a ‘lacklustre’ response from FTSE 500 companies, VinciWorks said. A review of their websites, conducted in June, showed that just 8% had published statements.
Kathryn Dooks, employment partner at technology firm Kemp Little, said in-house legal teams need at least six months to complete the work required to publish a statement.
She said: ‘Given that it may take some time for companies to undertake an audit of their global supply chain and to obtain responses from suppliers (whilst the suppliers wait for responses from companies further down their supply chain), in-house legal teams should start the audit process at least six months before the reporting deadline and longer if they have a particularly complex, international supply chain.’
Dooks said overseas parent companies will be required to produce a statement where a UK subsidiary cannot be said to ’act completely independently’ of them - for instance, if the parent and subsidiary have the same board of directors.
Yesterday prime minister Theresa May (pictured) announced that she was setting up the first government taskforce on modern slavery.
May said the act had delivered a ‘world-leading’ transparency requirement on businesses to show that modern slavery is not taking place in their companies or supply chains.