On 24 August 2018, a Senate Committee recommended that the Commonwealth Parliament pass the Federal Government’s Modern Slavery Bill 2018 (Cth) following a Senate Committee Inquiry. On 20 July 2018, Ai Group made a submission to the Senate Committee.
The Bill would establish a modern slavery reporting requirement for businesses with an annual consolidated revenue of $100 million or more (approximately 3,000 businesses). Businesses would be required to publish annual public statements on what steps they have taken, and will take, to address modern slavery in their supply chains and operations.
Many submissions to the Senate Committee inquiry criticised the Bill for not containing penalties for non-compliance, unlike the NSW Modern Slavery Act. On the issue of penalties, the Committee recommended (including Government and Labor Senators) that:
- A statutory three year review into the legislation consider whether a mandatory penalty regime should be introduced, drawing on the evidence and data gathered through the first three years of the Act’s operation;
- The Government develop a list of those entities that are required to report and publish compliance standards in order to test the proposition that ‘reputational risk’ is a sufficient motivator for reporting entities to comply with the requirements of the Act.
The Committee recommended that the Bill be amended to include, in one location, reference to Australia’s existing modern slavery offences (as outlined in Divisions 270 and 271 of the Criminal Code Act 1995) and to offences relating to fighting modern slavery such as offences relating to sexual and labour exploitation under the Migration Act 1958. This will assist in informing businesses what modern slavery is.
The Committee also recommended that an independent statutory officer be appointed to support the operation of the Modern Slavery Act.
A Modern Slavery Business Engagement Unit will be established within the Commonwealth Department of Home Affairs to advise and support businesses in implementing the requirements in the Modern Slavery Act\. The Australian Government has committed to developing detailed guidance materials for businesses in consultation with stakeholders, including Ai Group, before the modern slavery reporting requirement comes into operation.
If you would like more information about the Bill please contact Ai Group’s Workplace Advice Service on 1300 55 66 77.
Alternatively, if you would like advice complying with the proposed legislation please contact your local employment, workplace and industrial lawyer in Sydney, Newcastle, Wollongong, Adelaide, Melbourne or Brisbane or email Ai Group Workplace Lawyers at firstname.lastname@example.org.