The Modern Slavery Act Arrives Down Under
Slavery. The word itself conjures up images of a dark and shackled past.
Today, for an estimated 24.9 million people, “modern" slavery is a harsh reality. Defined as slavery, servitude, forced labor, debt bondage and deceptive recruitment for labor or services, modern slavery exists in some form or another within the operations and supply chains of organizations in 161 different countries.
Only a handful of governments have legal frameworks to protect workers. The Australian government is proposing to join their ranks with a modern slavery act, modeled after the one established in the UK in 2015. It will likely put forth a new set of reporting obligations designed to foster transparency across operations and supply chain of its multinational organizations. The obligations are a means to improve information availability for consumers and investors alike to help them make more informed decisions.
Though Australia has not proposed penalties for non-compliance, a rough passage through the parliament may see these kinds of measures included before the laws are enacted. Regardless, pressure from consumers and other stakeholders makes compliance in a company’s best interests.
With this increased scrutiny and raised expectations on the horizon, companies doing business in Australia will need to take a comprehensive look at their infrastructure and determine if their policies, procedures and culture are up to regulatory standards. Multinationals especially will need to be aware of the heightened global consequences that are expected to follow — similar to the precedent set forth by the UK. The act will likely be introduced into parliament in the first half of 2018 and will take effect later in the year, but Australian businesses are urged to act sooner.