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Contractors urged to improve strategies to tackle modern slavery

Development contractors are amongst those that should enhance their strategy to tackling fashionable slavery, to safeguard their investor portfolio and enhance their conduct.

Corporations throughout all sectors nonetheless present “restricted and infrequently superficial commentary” on the danger of contemporary slavery inside their provide chain, in response to a report by the Monetary Reporting Council (FRC), in tandem with Lancaster College and UK unbiased anti-slavery commissioner Sara Thornton.

The analysis paper was primarily based on evaluation of a pool of FTSE 100, FTSE 250 and “small-cap” corporations, together with development companies. Small-cap companies have a valuation of lower than $2bn.

“The vast majority of [modern slavery] statements have been fragmented, missing a transparent focus and narrative, or have been unduly sophisticated,” the report says, including that the longer statements typically include “boilerplate reporting”.

“Many corporations opted for broad-brush statements, fairly than exact descriptions on points resembling their coverage on withholding wages or imposing recruitment charges.”

Though corporations could also be limiting their reporting on fashionable slavery as a consequence of a worry of reputational repercussions, the FRC mentioned this strategy might truly result in traders withdrawing from the enterprise.

“Rising investor demand for transparency on the problem and better regulatory focus within the UK supplies perception into the potential prices of poor reporting,” the report says. “Successfully figuring out fashionable slavery threat and speaking long-term technique shall be vital to navigating such pressures.”

Regardless of it being a authorized requirement, the analysis discovered that one in 10 corporations don’t present a contemporary slavery assertion in any respect. Of these companies that did, solely a 3rd have been clear and straightforward to learn.

The report additionally discovered that solely 28 per cent of contemporary slavery statements detailed a long-term technique to fight fashionable slavery points, with the vast majority of statements specializing in previous points.

“The overwhelming majority of contemporary slavery statements have been wholly backward-looking,” the report says. “This discovering is in keeping with corporations choosing a reactive, fairly than proactive, strategy to addressing fashionable slavery dangers.”

Trendy slavery professional and legal barrister Philippa Southwell instructed Development Information that the development business’s strategy to fashionable slavery left so much to be desired, notably when it got here to publishing statements.

“Those that are required by legislation to are usually not publishing statements or not publishing compliance statements; these which are being revealed are very shallow and self-serving,” she mentioned.

“We don’t know what their due diligence is, we don’t know what their coaching is for HR; we don’t know what’s occurring behind the scenes inside that firm.”

The comparatively current introduction of the Trendy Slavery Act in 2015 additionally means that there’s a “fragmented and inconsistent strategy” to fashionable slavery throughout the board on a variety of ranges, together with figuring out victims, taking protecting measures for victims and in regulating fashionable slavery compliance requirements.

Though the researchers had anticipated smaller corporations to offer much less data basically, the analysis revealed that this was not the case. Whereas the bigger FTSE 100 corporations supplied “considerably extra data” than the opposite teams, the report discovered much less distinction between the small-caps and FTSE 250 corporations, that means that components past public scrutiny may form fashionable slavery reporting.

“Firm-specific features resembling management type and company tradition might, for instance, be enjoying a major position,” the report says.

Responding to the report, Thornton mentioned it was clear that organised criminals reap the benefits of conditions to perpetrate fashionable slavery. “Nevertheless, irresponsible business practices and poor governance can even create the situations that permit exploitation to thrive,” she mentioned.

“Firms have a duty to display the steps they’re taking to minimise fashionable slavery dangers and to indicate sturdy management on this space.”

Final yr, a survey by the College of Nottingham and CHAS, a specialist well being and security accreditation-scheme supplier, discovered that almost all construction employers have “fallen short in taking further action” to stop fashionable slavery. The report additionally supported earlier findings that many companies have been taking “a tick-box strategy” to the problem.

Final week, 4 members of an organised crime household received prison sentences for carrying out human-trafficking offences. The Crown Prosecution Service had present in December that the household had lured their victims to the UK with guarantees of development work, solely to go away them ensnared in situations described as “fashionable slavery”, with out pay.