The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted on many companies subject to the reporting requirements of the UK Modern Slavery Act and/or the Australian Modern Slavery Act. Here we provide information on reporting obligations and how they have changed in the age of Covid-19.

1. Do I still have to publish a modern slavery statement?

Yes, companies subject to the UK and/or Australian Modern Slavery Act still need to publish a modern slavery statement. The UK and the Australian government have made it very clear that the current pandemic and the challenges resulting thereof do not exempt companies from their obligation to identify, assess and report on modern slavery risks within their operations and supply chains. 

2. Has the deadline for submitting/publishing a modern slavery statement changed?

Companies subject to section 54 of the UK Modern Slavery Act are able to postpone the publication of their modern slavery statement by up to six months without penalty.  However, companies are requested to provide adequate justification for the delay within their statement.

Companies subject to Australian Modern Slavery Act reporting obligations have been granted a three-month extension for submitting their modern slavery statement. Hence, the first statements (by companies with a April 2019 – 31 March 2020 reporting period) are now due in December 2020 instead of September 2020. The three-month extension applies to all companies where their reporting period ends on or before 30 June 2020. For companies where the reporting period ends after 30 June 2020, the original deadline of six months from conclusion of the reporting period remains unchanged. 

3. Do I have to fulfil all the criteria set out in the UK and Australian Modern Slavery Act?

Yes, reporting entities are required to continue to report on the actions they have taken to mitigate risks and need to address all mandatory criteria as set out in the respective Modern Slavery Act.

The UK and the Australian governments however acknowledge the unprecedented impact that the pandemic is having on many businesses. In cases where companies, due to the pandemic, face difficulties in providing sufficient information on some of the criteria they should explain their challenges in their modern slavery statement.

4. What if, due to the pandemic, I am unable to achieve an objective that I have set out in an earlier modern slavery statement? (*only applies to companies which already have published a modern slavery statement)

The UK Government acknowledges that the current circumstances can create new and increased risks which “may take precedence over previously planned activities and may mean that businesses are not able to meet the goals set in earlier modern slavery statements.” Companies will not be punished for being unable to implement and/or complete actions as planned. Businesses however should outline and explain their challenges in their modern slavery statement.

5. Do I have to address additional criteria which go beyond the usual requirements of  the UK and/or Australian Modern Slavery Act?

No, there are no new mandatory requirements, but the UK government asks businesses to outline the actions they have taken to mitigate risks during the pandemic. Companies should therefore pay close attention and assess possible new risk factors arising from the pandemic. These may include increased workers’ vulnerability to modern slavery due to disrupted supply chains or increased risk of exposure to and infection with Covid-19. Businesses should monitor and adapt their policies and actions accordingly. 

6. Where can I find more information and guidance on modern slavery reporting in the time of Covid-19?

  • The Australian Border Force has published an information sheet with useful information on a) how to decrease risks to workers resulting from the pandemic and b) how to address the impact of Covid-19 in your modern slavery statement. 
  • The UK Government guidance for modern slavery reporting during the pandemic can be found here. The document highlights some potential new risk factors and provides resources with useful information for employees, businesses and investors.

The Covid 19 pandemic is placing a huge burden on many businesses. And in turn, this is significantly increasing the risk of modern slavery to workers in supply chains. While acknowledging that many businesses may be facing existential pressures, now is not the time to stop assessing and mitigating the potential rights abuses happening in your supply chain. At RightsDD we are offering smart technology solutions to support you in identifying slavery risks within your operations and supply chains. Please contact us for more information.