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Review of Australia’s Modern Slavery Act and what it could mean for your business

Is the Modern Slavery Act working?

The review, lead by Professor John McMillan AO, sought to assess whether the Act had been successful in fulfilling its mandate. The Act requires government and businesses to identify and assess modern slavery risks within their operations and supply chains, and to transparently report on their efforts in doing so. 

Taking a retrospective look at the overall standard of reporting since the Act’s introduction in 2018, the report identified three main areas of weakness: 

  1. “the standard of reporting is variable, 
  2. the reporting obligation is not properly enforceable, and 
  3. the process is at risk of being drowned by a sea of large and incompatible statements.”

Out of the 30 recommendations in the report, the seven most significant changes include:

  1. Lowering the reporting threshold to include entities that have a consolidated revenue of at least $50 million for the reporting period (down from current threshold of $100 million). 
  2. Introducing penalties for entities which: fail to report without reasonable excuse, submit a report that knowingly includes materially false information, or which fail to put an appropriate due diligence system in place to assess modern slavery risks. 
  3. A requirement for entities to implement a due diligence system that goes beyond basic reporting and requires them to take effective action to identify and assess modern slavery risks and track their performance in addressing those risks.
  4. The introduction of an Anti-Slavery Commissioner that would play a role in furthering guidance materials and overseeing compliance with the Act.
  5. Introducing a mechanism for the Minister or the Anti-Slavery Commissioner to declare high risk regions, locations, industries, products, suppliers or supply chains that entities must take into account and report on. 
  6. Require all modern slavery statements to include a coversheet that addresses specified matters to assist standardisation between statements.  
  7. Updating and expanding the current Guidance for Reporting Entities on a range of matters including: compliance with reporting requirements under the Act; definitions of modern slavery, operations, supply chains; specific guidance for small to medium sized entities; and a template for signature and approval requirements. 

The Government will now consider the recommendations made. Many, but not all, the recommendations would require legislative amendments to be passed if the Government agrees with them.

In the meantime, businesses may wish to take stock of their current modern slavery reporting to consider whether they are prepared for a potential strengthening of the Act. Key questions to consider are:

  • What is your business’s revenue threshold and will your business have to report if it is  lowered to $50 million? 
  • Would a lower threshold impact any of your key suppliers or customers?
  • Is your modern slavery reporting comprehensive and up to date? 
  • Does your reporting faithfully include a transparent disclosure of risk?
  • Are your business’s modern slavery risk responses supported by robust human rights due diligence? 
  • What actions are being taken in response to modern slavery risk and how are you assessing their effectiveness?

If you would like to read Deloitte’s submission to the Review, please reach out to our team.