Modern Slavery Act (MSA) 2015

The Act is the first of its kind in Europe and received Royal Assent on 26 March 2015. The Act consolidates slavery and trafficking offences and introduces tougher penalties and sentencing rules.

It ensures that the National Crime Agency, the police and other law enforcement agencies have the powers they need to pursue, disrupt and bring to justice those engaged in human trafficking and slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour. It also introduces measures to enhance the protection of victims of slavery and trafficking.

A new Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner has been appointed whose role is to encourage good practice in the prevention, detection, investigation, and prosecution of slavery and human trafficking offences, as well as the identification of victims of those offences.

Through the provision “Transparency in Supply Chains”, the Act seeks to address the role of businesses in preventing modern slavery from occurring in their supply chains and organisations.

From 1 November 2015, specified public authorities (including the police and local authorities) have “a duty to notify” the Secretary of State of any individual encountered in England and Wales who they believe is a suspected victim of slavery or human trafficking. 

Defining modern slavery

Modern slavery is a term used to encapsulate the offences in the Modern Slavery Act: slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour; and human trafficking. (Transparency in Supply Chain: A Practical Guide)

1. Definition of Slavery and Servitude Slavery: in accordance with the 1926 Slavery Convention, is the status or condition of a person over whom all or any of the powers attaching to the right of ownership are exercised. Since legal ‘ownership’ of a person is not possible, the key element of slavery is the behaviour on the part of the offender as if he/ she did own the person, which deprives the victim of their freedom. Servitude is the obligation to provide services that is imposed by the use of coercion and includes the obligation for a ‘serf’ to live on another person’s property and the impossibility of changing his or her condition.

2. Definition of Forced or Compulsory Labour: Forced or compulsory labour is defined in international law by the ILO’s Forced Labour Convention 29 and Protocol. It involves coercion, either direct threats of violence or more subtle forms of compulsion. The key elements are that work, or service is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the person has not offered him/herself voluntarily.

3. Definition of Human Trafficking: An offence of human trafficking requires that a person arranges or facilitates the travel of another person with a view to that person being exploited. The offence can be committed even where the victim consents to the travel. This reflects the fact that a victim may be deceived by the promise of a better life or job or may be a child who is influenced to travel by an adult. In addition, the exploitation of the potential victim does not need to have taken place for the offence to be committed. It means that the arranging or facilitating of the movement of the individual was with a view to exploiting them for sexual exploitation or non-sexual exploitation. 

How is HTS implementing the Modern Slavery Act?

1. Publish: a “Slavery and Human Trafficking Statement, summarising the steps HTS will be taking during the financial year to ensure that slavery and human trafficking is not taking place in any part of its business or its supply chain. A statement needs to be published regardless of whether any steps have been taken.

2. Safeguarding: Ensure relevant staff are aware of how to identify and report cases, or suspected cases, of modern slavery by providing information, guidance and training opportunities across the workforce.

3. Duty to Notify: The information that must be provided is set out in the Modern Slavery Act 2015 (Duty to Notify) Regulations 2015, including the process for making the report to the Home Office and guidance on how to complete the forms.

4. Procurement Processes: For contracting organisations the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 has been amended and now provides that organisations in breach of sections 1, 2 or 4 of the MSA (making it an offence to hold people in slavery, forced labour or servitude; or to carry out human trafficking, and related offences) must be excluded from procurement processes conducted under the Regulations (Regulation 57(1)).

What might modern slavery look like?

  • Living at the workplace with the employer
  • Being housed with multiple people; cramped living space; poor living conditions
  • Working long hours with little or no pay
  • A person who has no identification or travel documents
  • Children not attending school
  • Signs of physical abuse and/or psychological effects
  • A third party insists on being present or interpreting

How to report concerns about modern slavery?

  • In an emergency call the police on 999
  • For non-emergency calls to the police dial 101
  • To report anonymously call Crime Stoppers on 0800 555111
  • If you are a victim and want to self- refer call the Salvation Army on 0300 303 8151
  • Telephone the modern slavery helpline on 08000 121 700

For more information about modern slavery visit the Essex Safeguarding Adult Board website www.essexsab.org.uk