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Government publishes detailed guidance for Modern Slavery reporting

The Department of Home Affairs on Thursday released detailed guidance to assist businesses and organisations in complying with the new Modern Slavery Act.

The nearly 100-page document answers basic questions, including which entities are required to report under the new law, when they need to report, how to respond to each of the mandatory criteria set out in the Act and what modern slavery is.

Developed by the Department’s Modern Slavery Business Engagement Unit in consultation with businesses and civil society, the guidance comes nearly 10 months after the law took effect.

The Modern Slavery Act 2018, which was passed in November 2018, and took effect on January 1, 2019, requires large businesses and other entities in the Australian market with annual consolidated revenue of at least $100 million to report annually on the modern slavery risks in their supply chain, what they are doing to stamp out these risks and how they measure the effectiveness of these actions.

For companies, the reports must be approved by the board and signed by a director. All reports are made publicly available on a central website.

The law is estimated to impact around 3000 entities, including many retailers. The first reports are due at the end of each reporting entity’s first full financial year after January 1, 2019. For many Australian retailers, this means the end of June 2020.

Russell Zimmerman, executive director of the Australian Retailers Association, said the document made the new reporting requirement “a long way clearer” and advised retailers to take advantage of the guidance.

“From what I can see, it’s fairly detailed and does give some examples [of modern slavery risks]…the section on supply chain would be particularly relevant for retailers, ” he told Inside Retail.

An estimated 40 million people around the world are victims of modern slavery, which the Department of Home Affairs defines as situations where coercion, threats or deception are used to exploit victims and undermine or deprive them of their freedom.

Besides the impact on victims, modern slavery also can pose significant legal and reputational risks to entities, the Department says on its website.

Major retailers including Woolworths and Wesfarmers were early supporters of the push to enact Modern Slavery legislation in Australia.

Australia is the first country to release detailed guidance to assist organisations with identifying and combating modern slavery in their supply chains, according to Jason Wood, Assistant Minister for Customs, Community Safety and Multicultural Affairs.

“Australia is an international leader in combatting modern slavery and I look forward to working with businesses and civil society to take strong, meaningful action to address these issues,” Wood said.

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