British standard on modern slavery: incidents and remediation
At the end of September 2022, almost seven years after the introduction of the Modern Slavery Act 2015, standard 25700:2022 of the British Standards Institution (BSI) came into effect, offering guidance and recommendations on organisational responses to modern slavery.
As explained in this series, the standard provides a practical roadmap for navigating the complex modern slavery landscape. It also represents an invaluable resource for those dealing with reports involving modern slavery and resulting remediation issues. This fourth article sets out some key recommendations in this area from the standard.
Part 1 dealt with the standard’s approach to contextual risk management, and introduced the standard and its legal status. Part 2 set out some of the standard’s expectations for legal, compliance and senior management teams. Part 3 considered key systems and controls set out in the standard.
Responding to modern slavery
The standard encourages businesses to ensure that those affected by modern slavery risks can voice their concerns and access effective remedy, for example including a range of options with a victim- and worker-centric focus. In line with the standard’s wider approach, the recommended steps in this area should be introduced, and then assessed for effectiveness.
In accordance with the standard, controls may also be applied for external providers based on the level of risk that they and their supply chains represent.
This might include for example: retaining an option to terminate a business relationship if an intolerable risk is identified; imposing ‘flow down’ requirements in supplier contracts; using agreements that require regular provision by suppliers of a modern slavery self-assessment report; rights to on-site inspection, audit and verification; as well as evaluating performance indicators and statistics.
Businesses can also lobby governments, engage with industry groups and civil society, and participate in multi-stakeholder collaboration to increase leverage in relation to the supply chain.
The standard suggests that due diligence may be applied in less low risk areas. All due diligence measures should be documented and updated at a defined frequency to allow for appropriate action to manage specific risks.
By remediation, the standard refers to restoring individuals or groups that have been harmed to the situation they would have been in had the negative impact not occurred, or where this is not possible, using compensation, reparation or other forms of remedy to redress the harm caused.
The standard instructs businesses to have processes in place to remediate modern slavery – including to identify and stop modern slavery and to prevent future incidents, and to remediate those harmed by business activities.
This requires businesses to enable modern slavery victims to raise issues and suggestions and seek redress, potentially through a grievance mechanism offering multiple potential routes for raising complaints. Remediation processes should consider: agreed actions if modern slavery is, or when a victim is, identified; engagement to understand how modern slavery entered the supply chain; and verification that appropriate reporting mechanisms are in place in the supply chain.
Remedial steps and actions taken should be openly disclosed, and the process should demonstrate how whistleblowing allegations are to be addressed in order to encourage future incident reporting.
The standard also states that workers should not be required to provide evidence of harm (a suggestion with potentially complex ABC implications) and that reimbursement should be documented.
Dealing with reports
Businesses are instructed to build processes for receiving and assessing reports of wrongdoing, addressing them in a timely and impartial manner, and acting on and closing reports. Incidents and allegations of modern slavery should be investigated to prevent under-reporting, recurrence or escalation.
Investigations should be led where possible by someone independent, and should include a worker or worker representative. They should aim to consider not only immediate causes, but also underlying or root causes, and should lead to corrective action to address these.
Investigations should be proportionate to the incident’s potential consequences and impact on individuals, and should be recorded and reported internally, potentially reviewed by senior management, and in some cases, reported to relevant external authorities. Recommendations should be communicated to all relevant persons and actioned as quickly as possible. In this respect, the standard observes that proper investigation and action can help to build a culture of trust and co-operation.
According to the standard, a whistleblowing channel should also be in place to further enhance trust, impartiality and protection. To be effective, such lines should provide alternative routes from direct managers that individuals can use to raise concerns. Instructions are provided in connection with communication of modern slavery measures, complaint procedures and whistleblowing policies to relevant stakeholders in way that is suitable for the audience. Complaint procedures should be publicly available and procedures should be established to support anonymously and non-anonymously, and to appeal decisions.
In line with its wider approach in other areas, the standard emphasises the importance of monitoring, measurement, analysis and evaluation to help determine whether intended results are being achieved. Auditing is also presented as a useful tool at planned intervals to help with identifying and responding to modern slavery risks in suppliers, supply chain and business associates (although high risk areas identified during risk assessment may be prioritised where resources are limited).
Developing your own approach
In addition to the guidance on how to deal with modern slavery incidents and remediation in practice, businesses may find the standard’s commitment to monitoring effectiveness particularly helpful when developing their own approaches to modern slavery incident management.
For further insight or support in this area, please reach out to Michael O’Kane, Andrew Wallis and Julia Steinhardt.
Also in this series
– Part 1: New British standard gives guidance on organisational responses to modern slavery
– Part 2: British standard on modern slavery: key expectations for legal, compliance and senior management
– Part 3: British standard on modern slavery: key systems and controls