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The Modern Slavery Act 2018 (Cth) (the Act) introduced reporting requirements for large entities operating in Australia.

What is ‘modern slavery’?

The term ‘modern slavery’ is defined in section 4 of the Act and includes:

  • offences under division 270 or 271 of the Criminal Code (i.e. coercion, forced labour, servitude),
  • trafficking in persons; and
  • the worst forms of child labour

The Explanatory Memorandum to the legislation notes that modern slavery mainly occurs in the Asia-Pacific region where the supply chains of many large businesses operating in Australia are based. The Act establishes a formal mechanism that targets modern slavery practices and supports large businesses in addressing modern slavery risks within their operations. Issues can arise in circumstances where vulnerable workers are identified in supply chain operations.

Mandatory Reporting Requirements

The Act established a Modern Slavery Reporting Requirement which applies to all Australian entities or entities operating business in Australia that have a consolidated annual revenue of at least $100 million.

Entities that satisfy the above criteria, must prepare an annual Modern Slavery Statement within six months of the entities reporting year (e.g. if the entities reporting year is 1 July 2021 – 30 June 2022, a Modern Slavery Statement will be due by 31 December 2022)

An entities Modern Slavery Statement must include information regarding its structure, operations (e.g. global supply chain) and any potential modern slavery risks both within Australia and it’s global operations. The entity must describe the actions they have taken to assess and address modern slavery risks as well as how they assess the effectiveness of these actions.

The Australian Government maintains a register of Modern Slavery Statements submitted by Australian businesses or entities operating in Australia. The register is available to the public here and contains over 4,000 statements which cover in excess of 6,000 entities.

In circumstances of noncompliance, the Federal Government has the power to publish a list of names which of non-complying entities. ‘Naming and shaming’is likely to have a significant impact on an entities reputation and this alone is a compelling factor for businesses to observe the legitimate requirements under the Act.

Voluntary Reporting

An entity which does not meet the threshold for the mandatory reporting requirements may also elect to provide a voluntary modern slavery statement and have it published on the publicly available register. If an entity volunteers to provide a Modern Slavery Statement for the reporting period, all the same requirements will need to be met,as if they were a mandatory reporting entity.

Australian businesses and entities operating in Australia have already begun preparing their Modern Slavery Statements as we approach the close of the financial year. Many are anxious to comply with the obligations under the Act as the reputational impacts of non-compliance cannot be ignored.

How can we help?

Our Employment and Workplace Relations team can assist with understanding reporting obligations and provide support in complying with the requirements of the Act in responding to modern slavery risks.

This article was contributed to by Law Clerk, Maida Mujkic.