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Modern day slavery and agriculture - advice as the 2018 season get underway

AGRICULTURAL businesses that supply large organisations must ensure they have policies in place to tackle modern day slavery, a regional legal specialist has advised.

Modern day slavery and agriculture - advice as the 2018 season get underway

As the 2018 season gets underway, employment specialist Laura Clark has reminded landowners how they could be asked to evidence steps taken to prevent any involvement with unlicensed gang masters or traffickers.

Her advice comes just days after a national report revealed that more than 5,000 potential victims of modern day slavery and trafficking were referred to UK authorities last year. The report, from The National Crime Agency, said British nationals made up the highest number of cases for the first time, followed by people from Albania and Vietnam. The number of children thought to be victims increased by 66 per cent from 2016.

Last year’s figures will have included one of the most notorious modern slavery cases of its kind, which happened in our region. A total of 11 members of the same Lincolnshire family were jailed for violently exploiting at least 18 victims of modern slavery. In court, the offences were described as ‘chilling in their mercilessness’. It is well known that such gang-leaders target the agricultural sector.

Laura, a lawyer with leading regional law firm Wilkin Chapman, highlighted elements of The Modern Slavery Act 2015, which requires large businesses, with an annual turnover of at least £36 million, to publish a slavery and human trafficking statement every financial year.

She warned that, while the farmers themselves may not fall into that category, any supply chain businesses would be obliged to produce the statement for their customer.

“These could be large supermarkets, for example, and it is very likely that – as part of their supply chain – they will be asking what processes and policies a farmer has in place to tackle modern slavery,” said Laura.

“If you are such a business, you may therefore find it helpful to voluntarily produce a statement as a means of managing these requests and providing a level of assurance,” she advised.

 “There is no prescribed form or length requirement for the statement, and it may include information about your policies in relation to slavery and human trafficking, your due diligence process, and the steps you take to assess and manage the risk,” added Laura.

She said that even if a business decides not to produce such a statement, it should consider taking steps to ensure that slavery and human trafficking is not taking place in its business or supply chains by identifying the risk areas, carrying out due diligence on their operations and supply chains, and training staff on the risks and impacts.

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