What is the Modern Slavery Act?

The Modern Slavery Act 2015 is a UK law combatting modern slavery within our communities. Modern slavery involves the exploitation of people and comes in many different forms. The act has put a focus on transparency and the responsibility to recognise modern slavery within supply chains. You can learn more about how to be compliant here.

Slavery was abolished in 1833 across the British Empire, however it is far from eradicated. In fact, it is estimated that 13,000 people in the UK alone are living in modern slavery. Modern slavery involves the exploitation of people and can come in a variety of different forms, including: human trafficking, labour exploitation, domestic servitude and forced marriages. The current governing legislation within the UK is the Modern Slavery Act 2015, which received Royal Assent on Thursday 26th March 2015. The act featured a push on transparency, urging businesses to acknowledge and address issues within their own supply chains.

What is Modern Slavery?

Modern slavery includes: defining a person as owned/controlled by another; treating someone as a commodity or as property; dehumanising a person; restricting someone’s freedom of movement; forcing a person to work against their will. It can be broadly divided into ten types, though they frequently overlap and co-exist:

  • Human trafficking
  • Labour exploitation
  • Sexual exploitation
  • Financial exploitation
  • Forced organ harvesting
  • Forced criminality
  • Forced, early or sham marriages
  • EU status exploitation
  • Descent based or hereditary
  • Domestic servitude

Slavery goes largely unrecognised within the UK and consequently the scale of the crime is not truly appreciated. Modern slavery training can help to educate you on the types and signs of modern slavery, allowing you to recognise them.

Key Features of the Modern Slavery Act 2015

The Modern Slavery Act serves to simplify and consolidate existing modern slavery offences into a singular act. The act drastically increased the maximum sentence available for serious offenders from fourteen years to life imprisonment and also toughened up the asset confiscation scheme. The act sought to close loopholes by strengthening law enforcement powers at sea. Part 2 of the act featured two new civil orders: Slavery and Trafficking Prevention Orders (STPOs) and Slavery and Trafficking Risk Orders (STROs). These acts allow courts to restrict the behaviour and activities of a person who poses a risk of committing slavery or trafficking offences. The act established the first ever anti-slavery commissioner, dedicated to outlawing the practice of slavery. Vitally, the act has strengthened modern slavery victims’ protection and support, in the following ways:

  • By creating a statutory defence to ensure they are not inappropriately criminalised.
  • Giving the courts more powers to enforce Reparation Orders to be paid by perpetrators to their victims.
  • Providing child advocates in cases of child slavery.
  • Creating special measures to support victims of modern slavery through the criminal justice process.
  • Providing statutory guidance regarding victim identification and victim services.
  • Introducing protections to cover victims of abuse who are on an overseas worker visa.

Modern Slavery Transparency Statements

Section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 outlines the need for commercial organisations to publish slavery transparency statements. This encourages businesses to investigate and report on any possible slavery in their supply chain. Organisations are required to publish a slavery transparency statement if they supply foods or goods and have an annual turnover equal to or exceeding the limit set by the Secretary of State, currently £36 million. The statement must include where the business and supply chain operates, who is responsible for anti-slavery alongside any relevant policies. Failure to comply could result in reputational damage, loss of business and negative impact on shareholders’ opinions of the business.

Why is the Modern Slavery Act Important?

The Modern Slavery Act 2015 was introduced to address the role that modern slavery and human trafficking sadly plays in our 21st century society. In a push to consign slavery to history books, modern slavery has been brought to the forefront of our minds. Compliance with section 54 of the act is vital for businesses that supply goods and services, thus they should familiarise themselves with the requirements. It is the responsibility of everyone to stay vigilant for signs of modern slavery, be that in supply chains or in our local communities. You can learn more about the Modern Slavery Act and how to be compliant by undertaking regular modern slavery training courses.


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