Regulatory Outlook

Modern slavery | UK Regulatory Outlook January 2024

Published on 11th Jan 2024

Regulation prohibiting products made with forced labour on the Union market | Eradicating modern slavery in UK government supply chains | Provisional agreement has been reached on Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive

Regulation prohibiting products made with forced labour on the Union market

In October, the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee (IMCO) adopted its position on the proposal for a regulation on prohibiting products made with forced labour on the EU market. In November, it was confirmed at the plenary session that this position will be the basis for the European Parliament's negotiating mandate.

Most recently, on 7 December, the Competitiveness Council (part of the Council of the European Union) held a debate on the proposal whereby all Member States supported the overall objective of the regulation. However, issues raised by Member States included needing to streamline the EU’s efforts in the area of forced labour and modern slavery by aligning the proposed regulation with both international standards and EU legislation already in place, in particular with the CSDD and the Deforestation Regulation.

The Council now need to adopts its negotiating position on the regulation before informal trialogue negotiations can begin.

As a reminder, this regulation is intended to prohibit all products made with forced labour being placed on an EU market, made available in the EU, or exported from the EU. The proposal covers all products, namely those made in the EU for domestic consumption and exports, and imported goods, without targeting specific companies or industries. See more in our Insight.

Businesses should note that some countries may introduce their own legislation on this, or have already done so. For example, Switzerland has introduced legislation that requires companies to undertake due diligence to ensure products have not been produced or provided using child labour.

Eradicating modern slavery in UK government supply chains

Last year new guidance was issued on tackling modern slavery in UK government supply chains which applied to existing contracts and new procurement activity from 1 April 2023. Contracting authorities should already have put in place measures to eradicate potential modern slavery risks and in 2024 this should be a continued focus for these authorities.

Companies should continue to review and amend contract management processes and any related documentation, for both new and existing contracts, in line with the guidance.

Additionally, the Health and Care Act 2022 (HCA) requires the secretary of state for Health and Social Care to assess the potential risks of slavery and human trafficking within NHS supply chains. This review was published on 18 December 2023. It found that almost two-thirds of suppliers were identified as having a low risk of modern slavery, and approximately a fifth of suppliers were required to have a Modern Slavery Statement. Almost half of all suppliers had chosen to complete a Modern Slavery Statement which illustrated "proactive steps towards eradicating modern slavery". However, the review acknowledges limitations in available risk data, the reliance on supplier submissions, the complexity of risk identification and the need for increased supply chain transparency.

The review adds that to strengthen last year's guidance, regulations (as required under the HCA) should be introduced. The recommendations section states that these regulations are to be introduced to ensure that modern slavery due diligence is embedded within the NHS procurement process.

Other recommendations include standardising risk assessments and upskilling NHS staff and the supply chain on modern slavery risk and the new processes. It is extremely likely that the government will introduce these regulations in 2024, as well as taking further steps to eradicate modern slavery in the NHS supply chain. While there are no government plans to introduce legislation akin to the EU's Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (see the ESG section), in specific areas, in particular NHS contracting, there is a move towards greater transparency of supply chain risk.

Provisional agreement has been reached on Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive

Please see ESG.

First reporting obligations under the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive

Please see ESG.


View the full Regulatory Outlook

Interested in hearing more? Click expand to read the other articles in our Regulatory Outlook series

View the full Regulatory Outlook

Regulatory law affects all businesses.

Osborne Clarke’s updated Regulatory Outlook provides you with high level summaries of important forthcoming regulatory developments to help in-house lawyers, compliance professionals and directors navigate the fast-moving business compliance landscape in the UK.

Regulatory Outlook

* This article is current as of the date of its publication and does not necessarily reflect the present state of the law or relevant regulation.

Connect with one of our experts

Interested in hearing more from Osborne Clarke?