Following a review of the Modern Slavery Act, the government has published its response along with a consultation paper on how it might improve compliance with the legislation.

The independent review, which was published in May this year, made a number of recommendations on making the Act more effective which included a call for greater transparency in supply chains. For instance, by precluding companies from stating in their slavery and human trafficking statements that they had taken no steps to address modern slavery in their supply chains, and to make the six discretionary areas of reporting mandatory.

It is therefore no coincidence that the focus of the current consultation is on proposals to enhance transparency and drive compliance with the legislation, which requires businesses to publish a statement setting out what they are doing to tackle modern slavery and forced labour in their supply chains here in the UK and overseas.

Specifically, the government is asking organisations about mandatory reporting in all areas, a single reporting deadline and whether the requirement to publish a statement should be extended to large public sector organisations that do not currently come within its remit.

As part of this work the Home Office has written directly to 17,000 organisations that have not yet published a modern slavery statement. Of the organisations that fall within the scope of the legislation, it is estimated that, to date, only 60 per cent have published a statement. Those that do not comply risk being publicly named following an audit of companies and the new consultation will consider further enforcement of the act, including the possibility of a new civil penalty scheme.

The government has also announced that it is investing in a new research centre bringing together academics, businesses and charities to drive forward new studies, share knowledge, and improve collaboration both at home and overseas.

The consultation ends at 12pm on 17 September 2019.

Iain Birrell, of Thompsons Solicitors, commented: "Thompsons fully supports steps taken to rid the world of the despicable tyranny of modern slavery. We therefore welcome the consultation and the proposals it makes. Slavery is not just something which just goes on in failed nation states, but is prevalent worldwide – even here. The most recent figures for the UK shows that in 2017 6,837 potential victims of modern slavery were identified, 3,337 offences were recorded by the police, and there were 130 prosecutions. It is also only a couple of weeks since eight people from a gang which exploited 400 victims trafficked from Poland were jailed for between 3 and 11 years.

"Naming and shaming has had limited impact in the field of national minimum wage enforcement, and the government has come in for accusations of delaying those efforts amid fears Brexit preparations are 'sucking the energy out of government.' Those concerns are hardly abating and these are goals which need to have teeth - focusing on the bottom line will probably be a much better incentive for many."

The consultation document can be found here and the independent review can be found on the government website.