Many organizations started voluntarily posting their modern slavery and human trafficking statements months ago. But now, the Modern Slavery Act’s transition period is over, and there are real deadlines to meet. Covered companies with financial years ending 31 March 2016 must post statements as soon as reasonably practicable but within six months of their financial year end. For those companies, their deadline for posting a statement was 30 September 2016. Non-governmental organizations have already started reviewing, scoring and rating posted modern slavery statements. So, in addition to focusing on the content of the statement, it is important to attend to the Modern Slavery Act’s technical requirements so that the statement is viewed as being compliant.
Here are a few technical requirements to keep in mind:
- The statement should describe the steps taken by the company during the financial year covered by the statement.
- The statement must be approved by the Board of Directors. If the board of directors meets only quarterly, the statement needs to be prepared early enough to meet the Board’s meeting schedule.
- The statement must be signed by a director. The person signing is intended to be a senior person in the business to assure accountability. So, it is best for the person signing to be a statutory director. Website content is not typically “signed,” so this is an unusual requirement and is sometimes missed.
- Companies must include a link to the modern slavery statement in a prominent place on their website’s homepage. According to the Home Office Guidance, this means a link that is directly visible on the homepage or part of an obvious drop-down menu on that page. The Guidance recommends a link that uses words such as “Modern Slavery Act Transparency Statement” so that the contents of the link are clear. Website content is important for organizations, and it can be a challenge to meet these posting requirements. At the very least, it takes time and coordination to implement a homepage link, so that additional time must be built into the compliance schedule.
- Finally, a UK quoted company should consider how its Modern Slavery Act statement fits in with the Strategic Report and Directors’ Report required by the Companies Act 2006, which requires a report on human rights issues where necessary to understand the company’s business.