UK's Modern Slavery Act 2015 is to be reviewed to ensure legislation keeps in step with this evolving crime, lawyer highlights farming sector.
The UK Home Office research estimates that modern slavery costs the UK up to £4.3 billion, with each instance estimated to cost around £330,000, including the cost of support, lost earnings and law enforcement, but most significantly the physical and emotional harm suffered by individuals, who are often exploited over months and sometimes years.
Second only to homicide
The Home Office argues modern slavery crime is second only to homicide in terms of harm to its victims and society. Victoria Atkins, Minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability, said ‘as this awful crime is evolving, it is our responsibility as citizens, businesses and governments to do all we can to stop exploitation. This independent review will help us identify what more we can do to tackle this terrible, global injustice by enhancing the Modern Slavery Act where necessary.’ She said, ‘it is clear some companies are leading the way but others are falling behind. I’ve asked for this review to look at if we should strengthen our legislation to ensure businesses are taking robust action to eradicate forced labour in their supply chains.’ Among key areas of focus for the review will be developing understanding of the nature of modern slavery offences and supporting victims.
Farming in spotlight
In the last year, the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA), which is an arm's length body of the Home Office, made 107 modern slavery arrests. Laura Brown, an associate in the employment team at Birketts, explains ‘the spotlight on the farming sector has revealed some horrific conditions that an alarming number of farmworkers are subjected to. With the media revealing such shocking practices, it is unsurprising that the farming industry is facing pressure to improve standards. Even for the majority of farming businesses that would not even contemplate exploiting their workforce, the pressure is still on to show the public how they have committed to maintaining and improving working conditions.’ She argues consumers are constantly raising questions and more willing than ever to apply pressure.