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The risk of modern slavery is present in the construction sector, just as it is in other industries and organisations that have supply chains that are both complicated and global in scope. Human trafficking, forced labor, and other kinds of contemporary slavery continue to affect the lives of millions of people all over the world.

In recent years, the United Kingdom has introduced various pieces of proposed legislation to combat this issue, such as the Modern Slavery Act of 2015, which was ultimately passed in 2015. The results of the study indicate that, in spite of the efforts that have been made by the country, there is evidence to suggest that contemporary slavery is decreasing across the country as a whole. Those of us who work in the construction sector are certain that this extremely important matter deserves undivided attention and unwavering commitment right away.

The United Kingdom has problems with both slavery and the trafficking of people. A study that was conducted in 2022 by the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply found that only 29% of businesses who were required to provide a declaration concerning modern slavery to the official registry in the UK actually did so. This information was obtained from those businesses. (CIPS). In comparison to the previous year, this year there was a 46% decrease in the number of declarations that were sent in. In spite of the dangers that are created by violations of modern-day slavery, only an insufficient percentage of businesses in the UK assert that they have anti-slavery practices in place within their supply chains.

Do businesses turn a blind eye to modern slavery?

According to David Taylor, who is the chief operating officer for CIPS, businesses “turn a blind eye to modern slavery” on a regular basis. Even if this might be the case in some situations, there is almost always more to the tale than what is initially presented to the reader. The recent decline in documented cases of contemporary slavery can be attributed to the combined effects of a number of important factors. The following is a list of some of the components that are contained in this:

Because there are limited sanctions for noncompliance with the Modern Slavery Act, and because it is possible for them to get away with it, businesses do not feel required to comply with the act’s reporting responsibilities. Because of limitations on their financial resources, a sizable number of businesses are giving other aspects of their operations higher priority than the battle against modern slavery and the necessary statements.

Some businesses might be ignoring potential modern slavery risks in their supply chains because they are either unaware of their responsibilities under the Modern Slavery Act in its entirety or have made a conscious decision to disregard the possibility of such dangers. Compliance teams are finding it increasingly difficult to provide correct and precise alerts on modern slavery due to a shortage of resources and a rise in the number of regulatory obligations. This is making it increasingly difficult for compliance teams to prevent modern slavery.

A possible new law

Because of their contradictory statements regarding the depth of the issue, government officials are making the situation much worse. On the one hand, the government is mulling over the possibility of implementing a new law against modern slavery this year, which would force groups that meet certain criteria to provide evidence. Since April of 2022, the position of independent anti-slavery commissioner has been unfilled, but the government has not taken the necessary steps to fill the vacancy.

Construction industry obligation

Businesses in the construction industry, irrespective of whether they are located in the United Kingdom or somewhere else, are obligated to demonstrate initiative and go beyond what is necessary by the regulations set forth by the government. The practice of slavery in its contemporary form is not merely a matter of legal concern; rather, it is a way of life for millions of individuals who are related in some way to our supply networks. It is important for any construction company that does business in the United Kingdom to conduct research into the following four areas:

1: The diffusion of knowledge and the maintenance of an open mind

It would be prudent for construction businesses to make investments in training and awareness programmes for their employees and other stakeholders to ensure that they are aware of the dangers posed by modern slavery and are able to recognise and report instances of it when they occur. This would allow construction companies to protect their workers from being exploited in the workplace.

2: Caution and the ability to recognise potentially dangerous situations

In order to identify and address potential instances of modern slavery that may take place inside their supply chains, businesses are required to carry out exhaustive risk assessment procedures. In order to accomplish this goal, it is necessary to conduct routine checks on the suppliers and subcontractors to guarantee that they are adhering to ethical work practises.

3: Assistance and cooperation

The construction business should work together with other industries, as well as governmental agencies, nongovernmental groups, and other organizations, to address the problem of modern slavery. It is possible that we will be able to achieve this objective if we collaborate with one another to share information and specialised knowledge, as well as advocate for more stringent legislation and enforcement actions.

4: Responsiveness to external stimuli and heightened awareness

The Modern Slavery Act mandates that companies that are publicly traded must declare the measures they have taken to eradicate the use of forced labour in the production of their goods and services. This mandate was established in order to protect victims of modern slavery. Declarations from the general public are submitted on an annual basis to the official registry. These declarations detail the efforts that have been taken to eradicate slavery. These assertions are made available to the general audience. Your efforts to fight against slavery will always have the backing of the CHAS Elite and the other member schemes.

Guaranteed conformity

Member schemes such as CHAS Elite, which promote ethical business practices, boost transparency, and provide help to businesses operating in the construction industry, make a significant contribution to the fight against modern slavery and are therefore very useful to the cause. Companies have the ability to demonstrate their commitment to ethical work practises and the maintenance of an ethical supply chain by utilising CHAS Elite and other programmes that are similar to it. These programmes guarantee conformity with the Common Assessment Standard, which evaluates a wide variety of risk management categories, one of which is “modern slavery.”

Through the member programmes, businesses have the opportunity to get a deeper understanding of the dangers posed by modern slavery, as well as the means by which to identify and report instances of suspected instances of the practise. In addition, the member schemes provide opportunities for training as well as for public awareness efforts. This improved knowledge can assist in the prevention of modern slavery as well as the identification of instances of it in the construction industry and other industries.

In conclusion

The construction sector has a responsibility to become involved in the fight to abolish modern slavery. If the industry makes openness, compliance, and collaboration its top priorities and seeks the help of member schemes like CHAS Elite, it has the potential to bring about major change and to contribute to the elimination of this endemic issue. It is imperative that businesses in the construction industry take immediate action to demonstrate their dedication to upholding ethical labour standards across the entirety of their operations and supplier networks.

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