UK Modern Slavery Act of 2015

Slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour

(1)A person commits an offence if—
(a)the person holds another person in slavery or servitude and the circumstances are such that the person knows or ought to know that the other person is held in slavery or servitude, or
(b)the person requires another person to perform forced or compulsory labour and the circumstances are such that the person knows or ought to know that the other person is being required to perform forced or compulsory labour.

(2)In subsection (1) the references to holding a person in slavery or servitude or requiring a person to perform forced or compulsory labour are to be construed in accordance with Article 4 of the Human Rights Convention.

(3)In determining whether a person is being held in slavery or servitude or required to perform forced or compulsory labour, regard may be had to all the circumstances.

(4)For example, regard may be had—
(a)to any of the person’s personal circumstances (such as the person being a child, the person’s family relationships, and any mental or physical illness) which may make the person more vulnerable than other persons;
(b)to any work or services provided by the person, including work or services provided in circumstances which constitute exploitation within section 3(3) to (6).

(5)The consent of a person (whether an adult or a child) to any of the acts alleged to constitute holding the person in slavery or servitude, or requiring the person to perform forced or compulsory labour, does not preclude a determination that the person is being held in slavery or servitude, or required to perform forced or compulsory labour.

Human trafficking

(1)A person commits an offence if the person arranges or facilitates the travel of another person (“V”) with a view to V being exploited.

(2)It is irrelevant whether V consents to the travel (whether V is an adult or a child).

UK Modern Slavery Act of 2015

The issue of protection for overseas domestic workers was a frustrating one. The draft Bill was silent on the plight of hundreds of workers enslaved in households in the UK. But, following sustained pressure and hands-on advocacy in which Anti-Slavery supported Kalayaan and others, a historic vote was taken in the House of Lords which brought back domestic workers’ right to leave an abusive employer. Unfortunately, the government remained deaf to our arguments and passed its own amendment requiring domestic workers to receive a positive decision from the National Referral Mechanism confirming they have been trafficked before allowing them to change employers. It is a bad decision that will deter domestic workers who face abuse and exploitation from coming forward to the authorities. On the other hand, it is a major achievement in itself that the Act now contains a specific provision on overseas domestic workers which is a gateway to getting better protection for this vulnerable group of workers in future. The fight on that issue continues.

Another momentous shift in the Government’s position was the introduction of the requirement for large companies to annually report on efforts to identify and address modern slavery in their supply chains. We worked with a coalition of NGOs, business and investors to persuade the Government that mandatory, rather than voluntary, disclosure in relation to company supply chains is the way forward.

It is a shame then that a loophole has been identified which allows companies hide their supply chains overseas as long as the goods they produce don’t end up in Britain. This, for example, means letting off the hook companies building sites for the FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

Finally, a major shortcoming in the Act is the lack of an extraterritoriality of slavery offence. This means that a British citizen could abuse someone overseas and not be held to account back in UK.

Big step in the right direction but deficiencies leave us – and victims of modern slavery – wholly unsatisfied“, AntiSlavery.org, by Klara Skrivankova

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