A new evidence briefing, jointly released today by the office of the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner and the University of Nottingham’s Rights Lab, finds poor reporting and low levels of action by the UK agricultural sector on modern slavery.
Agriculture is a high-risk sector for potential modern slavery and human trafficking. The International Labour Organisation places agriculture, alongside forestry and fishing, as the sector with the 4th highest proportion of victims of forced labour worldwide. It is therefore important that UK businesses working within this sector take concerted action against modern slavery.
The report assesses agricultural companies’ compliance with the Modern Slavery Act. It finds:
- Businesses are not adhering to the law: only 50% of agricultural companies which should be reporting under the Act had done so one year after the requirements came into force.
- Businesses are failing to meet the specific requirements of the law: Only 38% of these statements were compliant with the requirements of the law , meaning overall only 19% of the agricultural sector is abiding by the terms of the Modern Slavery Act.
Whilst there is no prescribed content for modern slavery statements, government guidance recommends six areas for inclusion. When assessed against these, the report finds poor performance:
- Quality of statements is low: scoring an average of 12.9 out of 30, and there was little improvement from 2017 to 2018.
- Companies are failing to assess risks: 40% of companies did not describe any form of risk appraisal nor identify areas of high risk.
- Companies are failing to assess effectiveness: Nearly 80% of statements included nothing regarding the effectiveness of their steps taken to address slavery, despite government guidance advising this.
The agricultural sector’s low compliance rate is found to be in line with that of other high-risk sectors (food processing and packaging; mining; hotels), suggesting poor compliance rates under the Act may be the norm. This contrasts with much higher rates of compliance for the new Gender Pay Gap reporting rules (87% on day one in the first year of reporting), which has a comprehensive compliance framework in place managed by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission.
The full report can be found here.