Australia’s modern slavery in supply chains reporting requirement – lessons from the UK

News23 Oct 2017

Last week the Australian Government’s public consultation on a proposed modern slavery in supply chains reporting requirement came to a close. Australia’s development of a Modern Slavery Act offers an important opportunity not only to build on the momentum of the UK Modern Slavery Act but also to learn lessons from the shortcomings of the UK Act and to go much further in preventing exploitation in corporate supply chains.  

Evidence submitted by FLEX to the consultation draws on FLEX’s experience as an active participant in the UK Modern Slavery Bill passage through parliament into law. It also draws on its role on the Advisory Committee of the UK Modern Slavery Registry and expertise gathered through developing the leading database of law and policy on corporate accountability for forced labour, trafficking, slavery and servitude – the Labour Exploitation Accountability Hub.

In its submission, FLEX encourages the Australian government to take this opportunity to learn from and build upon the experience of the Modern Slavery Act reporting requirements in the UK, and to view with clarity the specific role and the limitations of that legislation. In particular, FLEX encourages the Australian government to take an approach that is much more robust and more comprehensive than that taken in the UK, that truly provides a ‘level playing’ field.

FLEX is strongly of the view that any modern slavery in supply chains reporting requirement must be part of a broader effort to ensure corporate accountability and prevent labour exploitation in corporate supply chains. Further, effective responses to modern slavery must not only focus on the particular issue of supply chain transparency and reporting, but also on the protection of workers’ rights and on their access to both civil and criminal justice for abuses committed against them.

FLEX stresses that for any reporting requirement to be effective, it must be backed up by strong monitoring and enforcement mechanisms, including a list of companies required to report, and a penalty for non-compliance. It must also be part of a more comprehensive approach to the prevention of the labour violations that lead to modern slavery in domestic supply chains, including strengthening of labour inspection and enforcement systems, and the protection of the rights of vulnerable workers, in particular migrant workers. Without such measures, there is a significant risk that the reporting requirement will become a superficial and tick-box exercise, that will not succeed in eliminating modern slavery from the supply chains of Australian companies.

Read the full FLEX submission here.