Modern slavery is a global phenomenon with more than 40 million estimated victims, and $354 billion in at-risk products imported by G20 countries. Modern slavery is a term used to describe a number of different actions which amount to serious exploitation of workers. Modern slavery can occur in every industry and sector and has severe consequences for victims. Modern slavery also distorts global markets, undercuts responsible business and can pose significant legal and reputational risks to entities.

The Australian Government entered modern slavery legislation into force on 1 January 2019: the Modern Slavery Act 2018 (Cth) (the 'Act'). The Act contains many important provisions which have the capability to significantly reduce Modern Slavery in global supply chains. It aims to protect the labour rights of the vulnerable through entity compliance.

These provisions include:

  • Australian entities with a minimum annual consolidated revenue of AU$100 million are required to report under the Act.
  • The reporting entities must prepare an annual Modern Slavery Statement addressing mandatory criteria.
  • The Minister of Home Affairs has the power to create a publicly available register, which publishes Modern Slavery Statements.
  • Written requests may be made by the Minister of Home Affairs to entities who have not provided a Modern Slavery Statement requesting an explanation or to undertake remedial action for non-compliance.
  • An annual report must be published by the Minister of Home Affairs with regard to the implementation of the Commonwealth Act.

The reporting requirements have been significant in making companies review their supply chains for modern slavery. Many large organisation's have recognised the unethical nature of their supply chains and have now cut off suppliers. Transparency can prevent labour exploitation, by providing greater accountability through media reporting and public awareness.

Federal legislation does not impose civil penalties for non-compliance instead, upon failing to report, the Minister has discretionary power to name and shame. Reputational damage is a big stick.

A tarnished reputation can detrimentally impact on your organisation's revenue, as well as the positions of company leaders. You could lose the confidence of clients and lose their business too. In some circumstances, companies struggle to recover.

Roam Migration Law provides immigration auditing services to identify and address potential breaches of Modern Slavery through a comprehensive audit of immigration records. We can complete a one-off audit or regular audits of the visa holder population to minimise risk and eliminate potential issues.

Our immigration lawyers and migration agents can deliver customised migration training to stakeholders to ensure all parties understand their responsibilities under immigration laws. We deliver face-to-face and online training programs to meet your business's needs.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.