Modern Slavery | UK Regulatory Outlook March 2024

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Osborne Clarke

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Osborne Clarke
House of Lords Committee publishes call for evidence on Modern Slavery Act 2015 | Political agreement reached on Forced Labour Products Regulation...
UK Government, Public Sector
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House of Lords Committee publishes call for evidence on Modern Slavery Act 2015 | Political agreement reached on Forced Labour Products Regulation | Update on regulations to eradicate modern slavery in NHS supply chains

House of Lords Committee publishes call for evidence on Modern Slavery Act 2015

On 28 February 2024, the House of Lords Committee on the Modern Slavery Act 2015 published a call for evidence for its inquiry into the impact and effectiveness of the Act.

The inquiry is interested in hearing from both individuals and organisations. Issues the committee is seeking views on include: the efficacy of the provisions of the Act relating to supply chains; whether it has kept up-to-date with developments in modern slavery and human trafficking, both within the UK and internationally; the role of the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, including whether the post is sufficiently resourced and the appointment process; and any suggestions for improving the Act to better achieve its aims. Responses are to be submitted by 10am on 27 March 2024 and the committee will report by 30 November 2024.

Businesses should consider whether it is worth engaging with the inquiry, as this is an opportunity to express any concerns that they may have with the Act as it currently stands or, alternatively, views on what works well under it.

Political agreement reached on Forced Labour Products Regulation

The European Parliament and Council have reached a provisional agreement on the proposed Forced Labour Products Regulation, which will ban products made with forced labour from being placed on the EU market. Below are some of the main points

Investigations: The agreed text clarifies that national authorities (or, if third countries are involved, the EU Commission) will investigate suspected use of forced labour in companies' supply chains. If the investigation concludes that forced labour has been used, the authorities can demand that relevant goods be withdrawn from the EU market and online marketplaces, and confiscated at the borders. If companies show they have removed forced labour from their supply chains, then the banned products can be allowed back on the market.

According to the Council's press release, the agreed text clarifies that if a part of the product is found to be made with forced labour, only that part will be disposed of, not the whole product. An example is given of a car: if a part of a car is made with forced labour, that part will have to be disposed of, but not the whole car. The car manufacturer would have to find a new supplier for that part or make sure that it is not made with forced labour.

High-risk goods and areas: The Parliament has insisted that the agreed text requires the Commission to draw up a list of specific economic sectors in specific geographical areas where state-imposed forced labour exists. This will then become a criterion to assess the need to open an investigation.

Risk-based approach: Criteria has been set to be applied by the Commission and national authorities when assessing the likelihood of violations of this regulation. These criteria are: the scale and severity of the suspected forced labour, including whether state-imposed forced labour may be a concern; the quantity or volume of products placed or made available on the Union market; the share of the parts of the product likely to be made with forced labour in the final product; and the proximity of economic operators to the suspected forced labour risks in their supply chain as well as their leverage to address them.

The Council has formally adopted its position and the Parliament is due to take the final vote during its plenary session in April. After this it will be published in the Official Journal. The new rules will apply three years after the regulation enters into force.

Update on regulations to eradicate modern slavery in NHS supply chains

On 14 March 2024, the Department of Health and Social Care published a statement setting out the government's plans to introduce regulations to eradicate modern slavery in NHS supply chains, which are required under the Health and Care Act 2022.

The statement confirms that a public consultation will be launched in spring 2024, which the draft regulations will be published alongside, in order to gather views on the legislation.

The regulations will place legal duties on public bodies to assess modern slavery risk in procurement and contract activities and take reasonable steps to address and, where possible, eliminate that risk. The statement outlines that the reason for the delay in introducing these regulations is so the government "can ensure they are fit for purpose and interact with the current legislation and updated policies."

Businesses should keep an eye out for the publication of the consultation and decide whether they wish to respond.

CSDD gets through vote from Council of the EU

Please see ESG.

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.

Modern Slavery | UK Regulatory Outlook March 2024

UK Government, Public Sector

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Osborne Clarke
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