By Camilla A. de Moraes, K&L Gates, London
With an estimated 35.8 million people enslaved today, it is undeniable that modern slavery and human trafficking is a significant global problem. The construction industry in particular, with its high demand for migrant labour and complex procurement processes, has the potential for exploitation, and there have been high-profile cases such as in relation to the construction work for the 2022 football World Cup in Qatar. However, in recent years, steps have been taken, both domestically and internationally, to tackle such human rights abuses.
In the United Kingdom, the Modern Slavery Act 2015 (the “Act”) is now in force and an Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner has been appointed as a result. There have also been amendments to the UK Companies Act 2013, which requires companies quoted on the London Stock Exchange to report on their human rights performance, and a new Immigration Act, which proposes changes to the way the current Gangmasters Licensing Authority operates. On the European stage, the EU Non-Financial Reporting Directive requiring disclosure of human rights policies is in force, with member states required to bring into force laws to comply with it by 6 December 2016, and globally, a target to end modern slavery and human trafficking has been included as Target 8.7 of the Sustainable Development Goals, which will help shape development policy worldwide.