Modern Slavery - a Key Issue for the Hospitality Sector

United Kingdom

Modern slavery can take many forms including the trafficking of people, forced labour, servitude and slavery.  The hospitality sector is particularly susceptible to issues of human trafficking and sexual exploitation as well as labour exploitation of those working in hotels. 

In 2015 the Modern Slavery Act introduced the obligation on certain businesses to publish an annual modern slavery and human trafficking statement.  The aim of the statement is to encourage businesses to tackle issues of forced labour and human trafficking within their business and supply chains.  Specifically, the need to publish an annual statement applies to those businesses providing goods and services, carrying on business in the UK and with an annual turnover in excess of £36 million. Those businesses caught should publish their statement within 6 months of the end of the financial year to which the statement relates, and update it on an annual basis.

Whilst to date the government has taken a soft approach with regard to compliance it is upping the ante. Any organisation which was required to but did not publish its latest statement by 31 March 2019 risks being named and shamed by the Home Office following an audit of statements by the Home Office.  The Home Office has written to the chief executives of 17,000 organisations that it believes are non-compliant to warn them of this risk.

However, organisations should not expect any individual support or guidance from the Home Office with regard to whether the requirements apply to them or how they should comply.  Our experience to date is that in response to such requests the Home Office has simply provided a generic response, repeating its existing guidance.  Although the Home Office has clarified that organisations publishing a statement to cover several corporates in its group should ensure that the statement: details the steps to tackle modern slavery in the business and supply chains of all the subsidiary organisations covered by the statement; clearly names all of the subsidiaries covered by the statement and is published on the websites of the group and on the websites of the subsidiary organisations covered.

Organisations that have published their latest statement should notify the Home Office of this or alternatively register their statement at TISCreport.org or modernslaveryregistry.org, which it appears the Home Office is using to monitor compliance in the absence of its own register.  Organisations may also wish to consider registering a lead contact with the Home Office at www.gov.uk/government/publications/contacts-database-for-guidance-on-modern-slavery-reporting to receive regular updates from the Home Office on relevant issues.

Organisations who continue to fail to comply, and are not put off by the risk of public shaming, should also bear in mind that the government has launched an independent review into what more can be done to strengthen the effectiveness of the Modern Slavery Act. This includes consideration of how section 54 of the Act (which sets out the transparency obligations for large businesses) might be amended to impose more robust reporting requirements. Recommendations of the review include personal accountability for board members, fines (as a percentage of turnover) and establishment of a specific government enforcement body.

If your organisation would like to discuss any aspect of the transparency requirements under the Modern Slavery Act 2015, please contact Sarah Ozanne or Anthony Hollands in the CMS Employment team.