- The first Modern Slavery reporting period in Australia will be the 2019/2020 financial year and in order to be prepared, businesses are encouraged to proactively start evaluating supply chains
- Australia has a Federal and NSW Act and businesses should be aware of implications and obligations under both pieces of legislation
- New Zealand businesses will also be required to directly or indirectly comply with disclosure requirements
Modern Slavery still exists and affects people of any age, gender or race. Modern Slavery comes in many forms, from forced labour to debt bondage to child slavery and affects people and communities. The United Nations (UN) Global Compact Network in Australia estimates that 45.8 million are affected around the world with 66.4% of modern slaves being from the Asia-Pacific region, which includes Australia and New Zealand.
In 2015, the United Kingdom introduced the UK Modern Slavery Act (MSA) 2015 which was the first of its kind in Europe, and one of the first in the world, to specifically address slavery and trafficking in the 21st century. The UK Modern Slavery Act applies to companies turning over £36 million, capturing around 19,000 businesses.
Modern Slavery updates in Australia (Commonwealth and NSW) February 2020
In June 2018, the first Modern Slavery Bill was assented in NSW. The Commonwealth Modern Slavery Bill was passed by both houses of parliament on the 29th of November 2018. Due to COVID-19. A 3-month extension has been granted for organisations due to lodge Modern Slavery Statements in 2020.
NSW Modern Slavery Act 2018 (Not yet commenced)
Commonwealth Modern Slavery Bill 2018 (Commencement date after 1 January 2019)
- - Commercial organisations with at least one employee in NSW
- - Threshold - total annual revenue turnover of at least A$50 million
- - Australia’s largest businesses (corporate and non-corporate Commonwealth entities)
- - Threshold – annual consolidated revenue of at least $100 million
- - Expected to cover about 3,000 companies
Organisations subject to a prescribed equivalent federal, territory or state law
Form of publication
Annual modern slavery statement -
The NSW Anti-Slavery Commissioner maintains a register of statements publicly available online.
Annual modern slavery statement -
The Bill establishes a register of statements, maintained by the Minister which is publicly available online.
Expected start date
After the end of the financial year, as provided for by regulations not yet published.
Within six months of the end of the reporting period –a final year starting after the commencement of this section of the Act.
Expected reporting requirements
- - The organisation's structure, its business and its supply chains
- - Due diligence processes
- - Risk of modern slavery taking place and steps taken to assess and manage that risk
- - Training on modern slavery available to employees
- - Identity, structure, operations and supply chains of reporting entity
- - Describe risks of modern slavery practices in operations and supply chains
- - Actions taken to address modern slavery risks (including due diligence and remediation processes); effectiveness of such actions
- - Description of consultation processes
Penalties of up to 10,000 penalty units (equivalent to A$1.1 million) will apply to companies for:
- - failing to prepare a modern slavery statement;
- - failing to publish in accordance with Regulations; and
- - providing false and misleading information in a modern slavery statement.
- - Publication of entity identity information and further information relating to the failure to comply which may result in reputational damage.
- - Can give rise to corporate and director liability under the Criminal Code – if inadequate preventative due diligence is indicated.
Further monitoring/ governance controls
Establishment of Anti-Slavery Commissioner and Modern Slavery Committee:
- - raise public awareness of modern slavery
- - monitor effectiveness of due diligence procedures
- - maintain register of modern slavery statements
The statement must be:
- - approved by the principal governing body of the entity
- - Signed by a responsible member of the entity
- - Given to minister within six months of the reporting period.
Although New Zealand has no formal Modern Slavery requirements, EY has estimated that Australia’s Federal legislation would require up to 500 New Zealand businesses to comply with disclosure requirements, either directly or in response to requests for information from other companies that will be required to report. Employment New Zealand recently released "Practical steps to identify and mitigate labour rights issues in your supply chain" a publication which has been designed to assist businesses that are making those initial steps to identify and tackle labour rights in their supply chains.
In June 2019, Jennifer Burn, Interim NSW Anti-Slavery Commissioner shared her insights on mandatory criteria for modern slavery reporting requirements businesses should consider.
COVID-19 reporting extension for annual Modern Slavery statements
3 Month extensions have been granted for 2020 Modern Slavery StatementsRead more
NSW Legislative Council - Standing Committee on Social Issues
Read the Modern Slavery Act 2019 and associated matters final report released by the NSW Legislative Council - Standing Committee on Social IssuesRead more
NSW Modern Slavery ActRead More
Commonwealth Modern Slavery ActRead More
Facing weighing career decisions or ethical dilemmas?
Chartered Accountants Advisory Group (CAAG) provides free, confidential counselling and support to CA ANZ members.Find out more