The UK Modern Slavery Act (MSA)

The UK Modern Slavery Act came into force in 2015. The Act seeks to comprehensively address both the enforcement of modern slavery and the plight of the victims of modern slavery. The Act is based on the Modern Slavery Strategy that was published in 2014 and as a result, the UK became the first country in the world to introduce pioneering transparency in supply chains requirements. The law provides enforcement agencies the tools to tackle modern slavery offences and includes maximum life sentence for perpetrators and enhanced protection of the victims.  

Under the Act, a person is exploited if one or more of the following offences applies: 

  • Slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour (section 1 of the Act) 

Key highlights of the Act: 

Section 3 of the Act sets out the definition of exploitation. As per the law, a person is exploited only if one or more of the following subsections apply in relation to the person: 

  • Slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour 
  • Sexual exploitation 
  • Removal of organs 
  • Securing services by force, threats or deception 
  • Securing services from children and vulnerable persons 

Section 1 and 2 of the Act makes prosecuting human traffickers easier by consolidating the existing slavery offences; 

Sections 8-10 of the Act make provision for courts to make Reparation Orders against a person who is convicted of an offence under sections 1, 2 or 4 of the Act. A reparation order is an order requiring the person against whom it is made to pay compensation to the victim of a relevant offence for any harm resulting from that offence. 

Under Section 23-29 of the Act, provisions are made for Slavery and Trafficking Risk Orders, to enable courts to place restrictions on individuals suspected of involvement in modern slavery crimes. The Risk Order tool of the act is useful to disrupt any offending networks and prevent further exploitation or trafficking. 

Section 45 of the Act provides a statutory defence for victims of modern slavery. In other words, it bans prosecuting victims of slavery for crimes they were forced to commit by their traffickers, such as drug production or petty thefts;  

Section 40-44 establishes an independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner to oversee the UK’s policies to tackle slavery;  

Section 48 of the Act introducesd Independent Child Trafficking Advocates to be available to represent and support children where there are reasonable grounds for believing they may be victims of human trafficking. 

Section 54 of the Act enables transparency in supply chains. It requires UK businesses (with annual turnover exceeding £36 million) to publically report the various activities that they have undertaken to eliminate slavery and human trafficking in their global supply chains and in their own business operations every six months. Any foreign companies/subsidiaries that carry on business in the UK must also comply with the law. 

If the company in question has a website, the Act requires the company to publish their ‘slavery and human trafficking statement’ in a prominent place on that website.