London Partner William Boddy Authors Column on Limitations of UK Modern Slavery Law

November 16, 2018

McGuireWoods London partner William Boddy wrote about how new UK laws against human trafficking and forced labor aimed at corporates lack a deterrent bite in a column published in the Nov. 15 edition of The Times newspaper.

The legal consequences for “those who benefit from modern slavery remain puzzlingly hollow,” Boddy wrote.

The UK’s 2015 Modern Slavery Act imposed no new offenses for companies that do not eliminate modern slavery from their supply chains, he wrote, explaining it only requires corporations with £36 million ($46 million U.S.) in annual revenue to publish online the steps they have taken to ensure their businesses and supply chains are slavery free. Boddy noted that the only penalty for a company that fails to do so is that it can be compelled by a court injunction.

Contrast that with the severe fines that companies face for failing to put in place compliance procedures to thwart crimes by others such as bribery or the facilitation of tax evasion, Boddy pointed out in his column, adding that neither of those offenses is conditioned on a minimum corporate revenue threshold.

While it is understandable that government may be reluctant to further burden business, he wrote, “few would say that a responsibility to eliminate a known modern slavery issue from one’s supply chain is unreasonable. On the contrary, those who knowingly benefit from modern slavery – or shut their eyes to it – clearly deserve sanction.”

The column, “The Modern Slavery Act is toothless,” is available online to Times subscribers.