Since our last update on the reporting requirement under the Modern Slavery Act 2018 (Cth), the world has continued to negotiate the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses in Australia have suffered greatly due to the sharp economic downturn and many employees either had their salaries cut or have been stood down.
In light of the current circumstances, the Australian Border Force (ABF) has issued guidance for entities impacted by COVID-19 about how to report under the Act and key actions they can take to reduce the risk of vulnerable workers in their operations and supply chains. According to the guidance, various factors including factory shutdowns, order cancellations, workforce reductions and changes to supply chain structures may cause an increase in the workers being exposed to modern slavery.
First of all, the ABF recommends that an entity provide information about modern slavery to the board or its executives as part of the COVID-19 update and consider actions that can be taken. In addition, the ABF also recommends the following key steps to be taken:
Maintaining Supplier Relationships and Fostering Open Communication With Suppliers About COVID-19 Risks
This could include taking the following measures:
- paying for completed work and extending orders over time
- avoiding varying contracts unreasonably or seeking discounts from suppliers
- asking the suppliers about the changes in their working conditions including the number of hours, reduction in resources and their ability to meet the agreed milestones, among others.
Collaborating With Suppliers, Workers, Business Peers, Investors, Civil Society and Peak Bodies to Identify Best-Practice Approaches to Protect and Support Vulnerable Workers
This may be achieved by:
- informing and educating workers about modern slavery risks during COVID-19
- redeploying workers to mitigate the impact of workforce reductions
- ensuring workers are protected from illness and related impact (e.g. by providing protective equipment, and appropriate pay and leave arrangements)
- supporting safe return of migrant workers.
In addition, the Australian Government has decided to temporarily extend the due dates (which is 6 months after the reporting period (i.e. previous financial year)) for the modern slavery statements as follows:
Original due date
Extended due date
1 April 2019 – 31 March 2020 (Foreign Financial Year)
|30 September 2020||31 December 2020|
|1 July 2019 – 30 June 2020
(Australian Financial Year)
|31 December 2020||
31 March 2021
|Reporting periods ending after 30 June 2020.||
The six-month deadline for reporting periods ending after 30 June 2020 remains unchanged.
If you would like more information about the Act and its reporting requirements, please contact our specialists at Wrays.