New legislation set to tackle modern slavery

The "daylight disinfectant" legislation will be of interest to those with international supply chains

New legislation set to tackle modern slavery

The Government has recently announced its plans to address modern slavery by enacting legislation to require organisations to be more transparent about their supply chains.

Concerns

Modern slavery is a significant issue facing society and is broadly defined as severe exploitation that a person cannot escape from, due to threats, violence, or deception. It includes forced labour, debt bondage, forced marriage, slavery, human trafficking and working exploitation (including non-minor breaches of NZ employment standards).

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Sadly, according to the International Labour Organization, it’s estimated that almost 50 million people are living in modern slavery worldwide.

Typically, New Zealand businesses associated with international supply chains risk the most exposure to modern slavery practices, particularly those working in the cotton, palm oil and other raw material industries. 

While reputational concerns and consumer calls for change mean many New Zealand businesses are alive to, and consider, their intentional supply chains, there are currently no legislative measures in place to tackle this.

Transparency the solution?

The Government proposes establishing a public modern slavery register and requiring organisations with annual revenue of over $20 million to report on the actions they are taking to address exploitation risks in their operations and supply chains via an annual disclosure statement that will require lodgement no more than six months after the end of the entity’s financial year. Failure to provide the relevant information would be punishable by fines ranging from $10,000 to $200,000. 

The rationale of introducing a register model is to keep businesses accountable, enable consumers to do their own research and permit customers to make informed decisions as to the organisations they wish to support.  While some have criticised the proposal as it does not require businesses to change their practices, it’s hoped that greater consumer knowledge and awareness will nonetheless drive change. The regulator will have powers to issue improvement notices and make public the names of entities that have bene convicted of an offence o that have been issued with infringement notices.

The National Party has reiterated its support for the legislation.

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