After several years of reports and recommendations, the Australian Parliament has passed the Modern Slavery Act 2018—carrying an imperative for businesses in Australia to take action on their modern slavery risks and responsibilities.
Updates to the legislation
The Modern Slavery Bill generated impassioned debate in both the House and Senate, passing with bipartisan support and several amendments to the legislation:
- Explanations for failure to comply: If the Minister is reasonably satisfied that an entity has failed to comply with the reporting requirements, the Minister can request that the entity provide an explanation and/or undertake remedial action. The Minister can publish information about entities that have failed to comply with a request.
- Minister’s Annual Report: The Minister must prepare an Annual Report assessing implementation of the Act, including an overview of compliance by entities and the identification of best practice modern slavery reporting under the Act during the year.
- Three-year review: The Government agreed to a review of the legislation in three years’ time, which will include whether additional compliance measures are needed.
Labor has signalled that it will push for further amendments if elected into Government next year, including civil penalties for non-compliance, an Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, and a public list of entities required to report.
Clarity on reporting requirements
Businesses now have clarity on their modern slavery reporting requirements: All entities operating in Australia, with an annual consolidated revenue of over AUD $100 million, will need to publish a Board-approved modern slavery statement under the federal legislation within six months of the end of their financial year.
Organisations with employees in NSW and a turnover of over AUD $50 million will need to publish modern slavery statements under the NSW law. The Government has stated that businesses reporting under the federal legislation will not need to do so under the NSW law.
If not now, when?
The UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights recently released a report on corporate human rights due diligence with a key takeaway for businesses: just get started. Human rights due diligence and risk management has become an expected norm around the world—requiring proactive, ongoing investment from businesses to know and show that they are meeting their responsibilities to respect human rights. With the passage of the Modern Slavery Act, this should now be at the forefront of the corporate agenda here in Australia.
A proactive and strategic approach
Here are our next steps for Australian businesses.
We are already working with our clients to ensure they comply with their modern slavery reporting obligations – contact us if you would like to know more.
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