What is the purpose of the guide?

The Australian government has published their final guide to help organizations understand their obligations under the new Modern Slavery Act (MSA), which entered into force on 1 January 2019. The guide is an update of the draft published in March 2019.[1] The Australian Modern Slavery Act requires every organization doing business in Australia, with a total annual turnover of over AUS $100 million, to publish an annual statement outlining modern slavery risks within their supply chain and the actions they are taking to mitigate risks. Using simple language and graphics the detailed guide breaks down the reporting requirements to provide organizations with guidance on how to comply with the law.

How is the guide structured?

Drawing upon the UN Guiding Principles on Business & Human Rights (UNGPs), the international standard for tackling business-related human rights abuses, the guide consists of eight chapters. The first chapter provides an overview of modern slavery in business supply chains and the development of the wider international framework to tackle the abuse. The remaining chapters cover mandatory technical information (Chapter 2,3,4,6 and 7) and content-related obligations (Chapter 5) under the new law.

What is the most important part of the guide?

Chapter 5 represents the core of the guidance, it provides practical explanations of the seven mandatory reporting requirements that must be covered in every modern slavery statement; as set out in section 16(1) of the Act. Each criteria is complemented with information on why the disclosure of the information is considered essential as well as examples and suggestions on how reporting entities can cover the respective criteria in their statements. Of particular importance are the sections dealing with reporting criterion three, four and five; these advise businesses on how to conduct human rights due diligence - a cornerstone to the implementation of the UNGPs comprising the identification of risks, integration of an action plan, monitoring and public disclosure of the mitigation process. Regarding the scope of due diligence, the guide makes clear that entities are obliged to consider modern slavery risks in their entire supply chain. The guide emphasizes the Acts purpose of facilitating continuous improvement of business’s engagement in human rights due diligence and driving a ‘race to the top’ to improve workplace practices.

Who oversees the implementation of the Australian MSA?

In Chapter 8 the guide sets out the responsibilities of the Modern Slavery Business Engagement Unit. The unit, situated in the Australian Border Force, offers advice and support to reporting entities, monitors compliance and administers the online central register where every entity has to register and publish its Modern Slavery Statement. Further useful information can be found in the guide’s appendices which, among other advise, inform entities about the different forms of modern slavery and common risk indicators.

When do companies have to publish their Modern Slavery Statement?

Statements have to cover the reporting entities' entire financial year (or other accounting period used by the entity) and need to be submitted within six months of the end of the reporting period. The first statements are expected to be released by Australian companies in December 2020.

About RightsDD

At RightsDD we build technology to help companies integrate respect for human rights into their business strategy and to comply with their legal reporting obligations. Our modern slavery due diligence platform enables companies to identify, remedy and report on modern slavery risks in their own operations and supply chains. If you have any questions about how RightsDD can help with your company's modern slavery due diligence, please contact us at info@rightsdd.com

[1] Australian Commonwealth Modern Slavery Act 2018 - Guidance for Reporting Entities