A new report from academics and civil society organisations has shown companies are failing to comply with the Australian Modern Slavery Act, ahead of its review later this year.

Companies based, or operating, in Australia are required to report annually on the risks of modern slavery in their operations and supply chains and take actions to address those risks. However, the report titled ‘Paper Promises? Evaluating the early impact of Australia’s Modern Slavery Act’

has revealed that more than three-quarters (77%) of companies are failing to comply with the basic reporting requirements mandated by the legislation.

Another key finding of the report is less than one-third of companies reviewed (27%) could demonstrate that they are taking some form of action against modern slavery risks.

According to Gavin Altus, director of Sentrient, specialists in workplace compliance systems, modern slavery should be treated no differently to other issues such as workplace health and safety, bullying and harassment, and cybersecurity.

“When businesses are approaching modern slavery, having a policy in place is one thing but being able to show that staff have acknowledged it, is a key part of meeting your obligations if you were to be put under the microscope, is another,” he told Retailbiz.

“Beyond the legalities, businesses should see modern slavery compliance as the right thing to do, just like providing a diverse and inclusive workplace.”

Sentrient works with some of the largest retailers in Australia and New Zealand, as well as small to medium businesses. Last year, Sentrient released an online modern slavery course after receiving requests for improved guidance and education on modern slavery. The training combined with an organisations’ own policy is the key to fulfilling your legal obligations of taking all reasonable steps.

The course is designed to help employees, contractors and volunteers understand what modern slavery is, the types of conduct that is modern slavery, the risks in operations and supply chains, and how to mitigate those risks.

“At Sentrient, our aim is to reduce risk, lower regulatory compliance costs and help avoid reputational damage. Completion of the course is a black and white solution to meeting obligations. Once businesses implement a base-line education policy, we recommend spot checking overseas suppliers with audits to not only demonstrate due diligence but to also show proactive feedback,” Altus said.

The types of questions that may be asked of a supplier to demonstrate that sourcing is being done in line with the Modern Slavery Act should focus on:

  • Awareness of any form of modern slavery in operations or supply chains
  • Implementation of policies and procedures to assure that slavery does not exist
  • Ways to identify, assess and address risks of slavery and human trafficking
  • Certification requirements that goods and services are sourced and supplied in compliance with relevant laws
  • Audits or inspections of operations
  • Employee training on what modern slavery and human trafficking are, and how to mitigate associated risks