On 20 July 2018, Ai Group made a  submission to a Senate Committee that is inquiring into the provisions of the  Modern Slavery Bill 2018 (Cth). 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).

The Bill would require businesses to publish annual public statements on what steps they have taken, and will take, to address modern slavery in their supply chains and operations.

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 Federal legislation. 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.

Ai Group’s submission to the Senate inquiry makes the following points about the Bill:

  • Ai Group supports effective and targeted measures to eradicate modern slavery crimes. Any measures imposed on business to combat modern slavery need to be realistic, workable and sustainable.
  • Many large businesses already have policies, contract management systems and risk controls that reduce instances and risks of criminal conduct in their operations.
  • Ai Group is pleased that the Bill includes a non-punitive reporting regime similar to the legislation in place in the UK, rather than a punitive regime.
  • The reporting requirement in the Bill will have varying impacts on different industries and different businesses, regardless of size. Industries such as manufacturing and construction are highly fragmented with significant integration into global supply chains across multiple business units and products. It is important that businesses operating in these industries are not disproportionately penalised by the Bill.
  • The reporting entity threshold in the Bill (i.e. consolidated revenue of $100 million per annum) is appropriate. Larger businesses have greater capacity and resources than smaller organisations to invest in the identification and elimination of modern slavery risks.
  • The elimination of modern slavery is best served by practical support to industry about the steps businesses can take, relevant to their particular operations and supply chains.
  • It is essential that the federal Bill be amended to explicitly exclude the operation of the NSW Modern Slavery Act 2018 for businesses that participate in the reporting requirements under the federal Bill, including for those that elect to opt- in.
  • Should the Bill proceed, it is essential that businesses be given adequate time to adjust and prepare for the new reporting laws. Ai Group proposes that industry be given at least 12 months from the date when the legislation comes into operation before any obligations under the legislation apply.

The Senate Committee is required to report to the Commonwealth Parliament by 24 August 2018.

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 regarding about developing modern slavery policies in your workplace please contact your local employment, workplace and industrial lawyer in Sydney, Newcastle, Wollongong, Adelaide, Melbourne or Brisbane or email Ai Group Workplace Lawyers at info@aigroupworkplacelawyers.com.au.

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