Modern slavery is an issue that affects many businesses in Australia and around the world. It is not only a moral issue, but it also poses significant legal risks for companies that fail to address it in their business operations. In this article, we will provide you with some practical tips on how to mitigate the legal risks of modern slavery in your business operations.
What Is Modern Slavery?
Modern slavery refers to a range of exploitative practices, including forced labour, debt bondage, human trafficking and other forms of exploitation where a person is forced to work against their will, often under terrible conditions, for little or no pay. It is a serious human rights violation and a form of exploitation that can occur in various industries and supply chains worldwide, including agriculture, manufacturing, construction, and domestic work.
Modern slavery can take many forms, and the conditions under which it occurs can be extremely diverse. For example, it can involve the use of child labour, the restriction of workers’ movements or the retention of workers’ passports or identity documents. In many cases, modern slavery involves the exploitation of vulnerable people who are forced to work in unsafe and degrading conditions.
In recent years, there has been increasing awareness and concern about the issue of modern slavery in Australia, with many governments, businesses and civil society organisations working to address this problem. The introduction of laws, such as the Modern Slavery Act in Australia, has helped to highlight the issue and encourage companies to take action to prevent modern slavery in their operations and supply chains.
Ways to Mitigate the Legal Risks of Modern Slavery in Your Business
- Conduct a Risk Assessment
The first step in mitigating the legal risks of modern slavery is to conduct a risk assessment of your business operations. This will help you identify any areas where there may be a risk of modern slavery occurring, such as in your supply chain. You should also consider the industries in which you operate, as some industries are at a higher risk of modern slavery than others.
- Make a Plan
You need a plan in place for responding to any instances of modern slavery that are identified in your operations or supply chains. This plan should include steps for addressing the immediate situation, as well as measures for preventing similar situations from occurring in the future. By having a clear process for addressing these situations, you can limit your legal exposure and demonstrate your commitment to addressing the issue. In the event of any legal action or investigation related to modern slavery, you can show that you have taken proactive steps to address the issue.
- Develop a Modern Slavery Policy
In relation to having a plan, once you have identified the areas of your business that are at risk of modern slavery, the next step is to develop a modern slavery policy. This policy should outline your company’s commitment to preventing and addressing modern slavery in your operations and supply chains. It should also set out your company’s expectations of suppliers and subcontractors in relation to modern slavery.
Furthermore, ensure that your modern slavery policy is aligned with relevant legislation and regulations, including the Modern Slavery Act 2018 (Cth) in Australia. This legislation requires certain businesses to report on the risks of modern slavery in their operations and supply chains. If your business is required to comply with this legislation, your modern slavery policy and related procedures should be consistent with the requirements of the legislation.
- Train Your Staff
Training your staff is essential to ensure that they understand what modern slavery is, how to identify it and how to report it. This training should be provided to all staff members who may come into contact with modern slavery in their work, such as procurement and supply chain management personnel.
- Conduct Due Diligence on Suppliers and Subcontractors
Due diligence is essential to ensure that your suppliers and subcontractors are not engaging in modern slavery. You should conduct due diligence on all suppliers and subcontractors to identify any risks of modern slavery in their operations. This may include conducting site visits, reviewing supplier contracts and conducting audits.
- Monitor and Report
You also need to monitor your suppliers and subcontractors to ensure that they are complying with your modern slavery policy. You should have a reporting mechanism in place to enable staff to report any suspicions of modern slavery. Also, take all reports seriously and investigate them thoroughly.
How Madison Marcus Can Help You
Modern slavery is a serious issue that poses significant legal risks for businesses that fail to address it in their operations. By conducting a risk assessment, making a plan, developing a modern slavery policy, training your staff, conducting due diligence on suppliers and subcontractors, and monitoring and reporting, you can mitigate the legal risks of modern slavery in your business operations. If you need assistance with addressing modern slavery in your business operations, reach out to us.
At Madison Marcus, our experienced team of commercial lawyers can assist your business with modern slavery regulation compliance and reporting, as well as developing robust human rights policies and due diligence processes. We can also help your company establish effective workplace policies and procedures to prevent modern slavery from occurring in your operations and supply chains.
Contact us here to learn more about how we can support your business in addressing modern slavery and other human rights issues.