What does the Modern Slavery Act mean for SMEs?

| December 9, 2019

The term modern slavery describes a range of exploitative practices including:

  • slavery
  • servitude
  • forced labour
  • child labour
  • human trafficking
  • forced marriage and sexual servitude
  • bonded labour and debt bondage, and
  • other ‘slavery-like’ practices.

The United Nation’s latest estimates suggest that over 40 million people around the world, including 4,300 people in Australia, are victims of some form of modern slavery. In a recent blog by The Glacier Group, we learnt about the Modern Slavery legislative requirements for Australian businesses with a revenue greater than $100M.

But what do these requirements mean for the SMEs who deliver goods and services to these larger businesses and effectively make up the supply chain that these larger businesses are reviewing, modifying and cleaning up?

Modern Slavery for the Supply Chain – That’s you!

Larger businesses, likely some of those that rely on your business to deliver their own goods and services, will begin to review their supply chain, engage with their suppliers and start enforcing supplier codes of conduct that you will be expected to adhere to. Many of these organisations will start to send out supplier surveys to understand how you, as a business and a supplier, manage and mitigate the risk of modern slavery in your own business and supply chain.

Organisations will initially focus on high-risk industries such as textiles, technology, cleaning, security and a few others where employment of un-skilled, immigrant or vulnerable employees is high. Eventually though, the net will be cast wider to encompass a large proportion of industries and organisations.

What do we need to do?  

  1. Become familiar with the legislation.
  2. It is essential that you start to consider what your clients might expect in supplier code of conduct documents, and what that expectation might mean for you.
  3. Conduct a risk review of your operations and supply chain to identify any potential risks you might not be aware of. Being familiar with these before your customer is critical to responding effectively, and timely remediation where necessary
  4. Get ready to respond to potential customer modern slavery or ethical supplier surveys.

This process isn’t a one off exercise. Australia’s modern slavery legislation is written in such a way that organisations will be required to dive deeper and deeper into their supply chains each year, and disclose their compliance annually. As such, being a prepared and diligent supplier will not only make your life easier, but may also improve your relationship with your customer by making their life easier.

To learn more about how to prepare your business for the expectations create by the new modern slavery act, or to get started on this journey, get in touch with The Glacier Group on their website or via info@glaciergroup.com.au.