The spectre of ‘modern slavery’ is real. According to the Global Slavery Index of 2016 (yes, there is such a thing), an estimated 45.8 million people worldwide and 4300 people in Australia are victims of slavery, with migrants at particular risk of exploitation.
In response to this critical situation, the Modern Slavery Act 2018 (NSW) (‘NSW Act’) was passed through NSW Parliament on 21 June 2018, and is yet to commence.
The NSW Act defines ‘modern slavery’ as committing, attempting to commit or inciting a range of offences in the Crimes Act 1900 (Cth), Human Tissue Act 1983 (NSW) and Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth), including slavery, servitude, forced labour, human trafficking, debt bondage and sexual servitude.
The NSW Act required commercial organisations with an annual turnover of $50 million or more to produce a ‘Modern Slavery Statement’ on the incidence of modern slavery in their supply chains.
Reporting requirements under the NSW Act will apply to ‘commercial organisations’ (companies, partnerships and associations) that:
· Have employees in NSW;
· Supply goods and services for profit or gain;
· Have a total turnover in a financial year of not less than $50 million; and
· Are not a NSW government agency
Each financial year, commercial organisations will need to prepare and publish a modern slavery statement containing the steps taken to ensure that their goods and services are not a product of supply chains in which modern slavery is taking place.
A penalty of up to $1.1 million applies for failing to prepare and publish a modern slavery statement, or providing false or misleading information in connection with a modern slavery statement.
The Act provides for the role of an Anti-slavery Commissioner. The Commissioner’s role includes: advocating and promoting action to combat modern slavery; identifying and providing assistance to victims of modern slavery; and monitoring the reporting of concerning risks of modern slavery which may be occurring in supply chains of government agencies and commercial organisations.
The Commissioner will also maintain a public register which records and disclosure concerning the incidence, or possible incidence, of modern slavery in a commercial organisation’s supply chains. The register will also record whether the organisation has taken steps to address those modern slavery concerns.