Modern slavery legislation progresses in the UK, Australia and Canada

Despite current global challenges, modern slavery legislation around the world is continuing to progress and have positive impacts.

UK Government publishes a modern slavery statement

On 26th March, the UK Government became the first government to publish their own modern slavery statement, outlining what they are doing to tackle the risk of modern slavery in their supplier chain. The statement sets out the government’s efforts towards eradicating modern slavery from its own £50 billion supply chains. This includes:

  • Supplier engagement with around 400 suppliers
  • Conducting training to over 250 staff
  • Setting goals and targets, including ministerial departments having their own statements from 2020/2021.

This statement comes after the UK Government introduced the Modern Slavery Act 2015, which requires businesses with an annual turnover of £36 million to publish an annual statement and report on what they are doing to tackle modern slavery in their supply chain. Addressing modern slavery provides business with the opportunity to deliver greater social value through commercial activities and incentivise other businesses in the supply chain to become more responsible and sustainable.

Australia tightens their modern slavery legislation

In Australia, a parliamentary inquiry in the Australian state of New South Wales has endorsed and urged the passing of the state’s Modern Slavery Act 2018 (NSW). The legislation, which has been deemed as world leading, includes:

  • A strong supply chain transparency scheme for both private and public sector entities with revenue between $50-100m AUD.
  • The creation of an Anti-Slavery Commissioner
  • Creation of new modern slavery offences, including the inclusion of penalties (of up to $1.1m AUD) for commercial organisations which fail to meet their reporting requirements, or which provide false or misleading information in their modern slavery statements.
  • Additional support for victims

The Sydney Archdiocesan Anti-Slavery Taskforce characterised the NSW Act as ‘the strongest and most comprehensive Anti-Slavery Act in the world’. The inquiry has further recommended that charities, non-for-profits, and local governments be covered by the legislation.

The committee drew on the UK modern slavery experience and the lack of penalisation for non-compliance, to strengthen the NSW legislation. The committee concluded that a lack of penalties for non-compliance with the act, has led to low compliance with reporting requirements, whereby 40% of the 17,000 entities required to comply with the UK Modern Slavery Act have failed to publish a statement.

Canada introduces modern slavery bill into Parliament

On 5th February, modern slavery legislation was re-introduced into the Canadian Parliament. Canada currently has no modern slavery disclosure and if the bill is passed, would enact the proposed Modern Slavery Act in Canada.

The bill proposes mandatory modern slavery disclosure by companies in Canada or doing business in Canada, and an amendment to the customs tariff to prohibit the importation of forced labour and goods made using child labour. Similarly to UK and Australian acts, the Canadian act would require businesses in Canada with a turnover of CAD $40 million to publish an annual modern slavery statement about what they are doing to tackle slavery in their supply chain. The bill is expected to be passed some time in 2020.


Sedex’s new Risk Assessment Tool, Radar, supports businesses to identify risks such as modern slavery in their supply chain. If you would like more information on how you can tackle modern slavery in your supply chain using Sedex, please email us at [email protected].

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