Companies caught in new compliance regime

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Many Australian-based companies are in the process of coming to terms with a new regulation focussed on slavery.

The federal Modern Slavery Act 2018 (Act) has created an annual reporting requirement for Australian-based companies - Australian and foreign entities - with revenue in excess of $100 million. 

These companies are required to prepare and publish a statement, from this year, explaining what they are doing to assess and address the risks of modern slavery to their Australian and global operations and supply chains.

The statement must be provided to the Australian Border Force and it will be published on a register.

However, the requirement goes beyond a statement like that required in the UK. Australian-based companies are required to provide detailed explanations of actions taken to identify, assess and mitigate the risks, as well as educate and train staff.

The requirement is also ongoing with companies having to assess themselves and act to continually reduce the risk of modern slavery in their supply chains.

Speaking in Parliament on the Bill in June 2018, Assistant Minister for Home Affairs Alex Hawke said, "This Bill will strengthen Australia's response to modern slavery by establishing a modern slavery reporting requirement."

"This significant initiative will shine a light into the shadows of global supply chains where modern slavery thrives. It will require large businesses to be transparent about their modern slavery risks and how they are being addressed," said Minister Hawke.

He continued, "Statements will need to address mandatory criteria set out in the Bill, including identifying the entity's key modern slavery risks and describing their actions to address these risks. These criteria will provide certainty for business about how to report and ensure statements can be easily compared.

"The bill also makes senior management accountable for the entity's modern slavery risks by requiring statements to be approved by the entity's principal governing body.

"The government will make all statements freely available online through a central, transparent, government-run register. The world-leading initiative will promote transparency and ensure that the community can easily access and compare statements."

Due Diligence Australia is a boutique Canberra-based consultancy that provides due diligence, risk management and compliance advisory services to the public, private and not for profit sectors. Its managing director, Felicity McNeill PSM, is well-known as a former senior Department of Health official but the organisation also includes a number of experienced former senior public servants.

Ms McNeill said the requirements in relation to how companies are able to demonstrate their compliance with the Act are significant and should not be understated. Companies that do not comply with the requirements will be named.