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BLOG: What is the Modern Slavery Act?

Eilidh Clark

Communications Manager

Posted on 09/05/2018 by Eilidh Clark

Scottish Renewables has teamed up with Scottish Power to host an event entitled ‘Modern Slavery - How Should the Energy Sector Respond?’ to help promote best practice throughout the sector and to discuss how organisations can tackle an issue which affects organisations and their employees across the globe.

Ahead of that event, this FAQ gets to grips with the Modern Slavery Act and what it means for your business.


What is Modern Slavery?

Modern slavery is an umbrella term encompassing slavery, servitude, forced or compulsory labour and human trafficking. 

It affects millions of people globally. 

In 2014, the Home Office estimated there were 13,000 potential victims of modern slavery resident in the UK, though experts now put the numbers significantly higher.



Both the UK and Scottish Governments have passed legislation in recent years to tackle issues covered by the Act. 

The Modern Slavery Act 2015 applies across the UK.

The Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015 affects the law in Scotland and creates two new criminal offences:

  • Human trafficking 

  • Slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour


Modern Slavery Act 2015 – Statements by Commercial Organisations

Section 54 of the Act requires the publication of an annual Modern Slavery Statement from commercial organisations that:

  • Carry on business or part of a business in the UK

  • Supply goods or services

  • Have a turnover of £36 million or more

The Statement should describe the steps the organisation has taken to ensure that modern slavery does not take place in their business or supply chains anywhere in the world.

The Statement must be:

  • Approved by the Board of the commercial organisation

  • Signed

  • Published on its website and linked in a prominent place on the web page.


Anti-Slavery Commissioner

Under the Modern Slavery Act 2015, the UK Government has appointed an independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner with increasing the number of modern slavery victims identified and referred for appropriate support.

The Commissioner has continuously called on organisations to embed action on slavery throughout their business and across all functions. 

Businesses should have clear action plans in place including risk mapping, ongoing due diligence, remediation processes and working relationships with law enforcement, labour inspection and expert charity organisations.

Last year, the Commissioner wrote to a quarter of the FTSE 100 companies calling for an improved response to modern slavery. 

There is increasing public and investor scrutiny of the content and quality of published statements and this is likely to continue.


Impact on SME Sector

Smaller commercial organisations operating in supply chains are increasingly being asked to make declarations on modern slavery in their contractual agreements with larger companies. 

The energy sector procures goods from suppliers across the world, often in significant quantities. 

Therefore, it is essential that all companies, regardless of size, are aware of the legislation and the potential impact on their commercial risk and reputation.

A full list of compliant organisations worldwide, including those voluntarily complying, is available here.