On 28 April 2020, the Federal Government announced there would be an extension to the reporting deadlines for entities that are required to comply with the Modern Slavery Act 2018 (Cth).

Despite the easing of the Modern Slavery Statement submission date, the pressure is still on entities to ensure they take action to assess, address and mitigate modern slavery within the existing reporting period. This reporting period is an entity's current financial year.

Please see the below table for clarification.

Reporting period Original deadline for submission of modern slavery statement New, extended deadline for submission of modern slavery statement
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

This announcement follows a reminder from the Federal Government last week of the enhanced risks to vulnerable workers in supply chains becoming exposed to modern slavery as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic – see Modern Slavery Act Information Sheet: Coronavirus.

In this information sheet, the Australian Border Force (ABF) encouraged entities to consider how 'factory shutdowns, order cancellations, workforce reductions and sudden changes to supply chain structures can disproportionately affect some workers and increase their exposure to modern slavery and other forms of exploitation."

Instead of easing pressure on reporting entities, the ABF encourages businesses to ensure they are considering these enhanced risks in the decisions they are making as they continue to respond and adjust to the new environment.

Several key steps are outlined for responsible business actions at this time, including:

  • maintaining strong supplier relationships;
  • ensuring open communication with suppliers and stakeholders;
  • buildingstakeholder collaboration; and
  • considering the implementation of best practice guidance to support decent work in supply chains.

As businesses respond and adapt to whatever will become the 'new normal', the impact on employees and workers in the supply chain will continue to be far reaching. We have seen some businesses writing to small suppliers guaranteeing shorter payment terms, order confirmation and worker support. On the other hand, we have also seen businesses cancel orders that have already been completed with little regard either to their relationships or the workers affected by such decisions.

We have previously discussed the importance of incorporating human rights considerations into decision making here, and the need for business to continue their sustainability programmes here.

Environmental, social and governance (ESG) reporting will continue to be expected by a wide array of stakeholders including investors, customers, and employees. Businesses should consider the implications of the decisions they are making now in the context of transparent reporting that will occur when the current crisis is over.

While it is often the most vulnerable workers who are hidden in plain sight, it is these workers that must be considered in the decisions that are made now, and the consequences must be accounted for in Modern Slavery Statements whenever they are due.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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