Australia follows Britain’s lead and finally implements a Modern Slavery Act

Woman in a factory under slavery conditions
The Australia Modern Slavery Act 2018 requires organisations with a consolidated revenue of AUD 100 million to annually report on the risk of modern slavery in their operations

The Global Slavery Index estimates that on any given day, there are 15,000 people living in conditions of modern slavery in Australia – a shocking number in a modern, developed country like Australia.

Following consultations with the business community, the Australian Modern Slavery Act 2018 went into effect on 1 January 2019. This comes four years after the British implemented their own Modern Slavery Act. The Act complements Australia’s existing criminal justice response to modern slavery, which includes specialist police investigative teams, a dedicated victim support program and a National Action Plan on Human Trafficking and Slavery.

What is Modern Slavery?

The Australian Modern Slavery Act 2018 is the first piece of national legislation in the world to define modern slavery. This definition includes eight types of serious exploitation: trafficking in persons, slavery, servitude, forced marriage, forced labour, debt bondage, the worst forms of child labour, and deceptive recruiting for labour or services.

Who does the Modern Slavery Act apply to?

The Modern Slavery Act applies to a wide range of entity types, including individuals, partnerships, associations and legal entities such as companies, trusts, superannuation funds and other types of investment organisations. This includes both commercial entities and not-for-profit entities, such as charities.

Why should businesses care?

Similar to the UK Act, businesses and other organisations with a consolidated revenue of AUD 100 million will be required to annually report to an online central register on the risk of modern slavery in their operations and supply chains. They will also have to report on any actions they have taken to assess and address modern slavery risks, together with the effectiveness of their response.

How can you ensure you comply with the Modern Slavery Reporting Requirement?

This is a five-step process:

  1. Check whether your entity is required to report
  2. Prepare a statement to report
  3. Have your statement approved by the principle governing body of your entity and signed by a responsible member of the entity
  4. Provide your statement to the Government to publish in the central register
  5. Consider what you have learned and how you can improve this on your next statement

When are you required to report?

You should begin reporting on your first full reporting period after 1 January 2019 (the reporting periods may differ depending on whether your accounting year is the Australian Financial Year (1 July – 30 June), or the calendar year (1 January – 31 December). Businesses are also able to report on a voluntary basis if they don’t meet the AUD 100 million.

Modern Slavery Act training and resources

The Australian Modern Slavery Act is designed to be similar to the UK Modern Slavery Act 2015. VinciWorks has a range of modern slavery training and compliance resources on the UK Modern Slavery Act, including guidance on how to spot the signs of modern slavery, specific training for procurement, along with resources to help prepare a modern slavery statement. VinciWorks’ training contains modern slavery scenarios for a wide range of different industries, including training that can be easily customised to suit your needs and include internal policies. Businesses based in Australia can further customise any course to relate specifically to compliance with the Australian Modern Slavery Act.