Tag Archives: remediation

Revealed: Weak Remedy Under the Australian Modern Slavery Act

Effective remedy is a key element of human rights protection. The United Nations’ Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) stress the importance of both state and business entities providing access to effective remedies. Despite this, the effectiveness of remedial mechanisms varies, with remediation emerging as a shortfall in Australia’s efforts to meet international legal obligations and business standards. This research delves into the practical challenges and responses to remediation, leveraging insights from a detailed study on the effectiveness of the Modern Slavery Act 2018 (MSA) in Australia. It draws on insights from a comprehensive, multi-year collaborative study to explore how businesses interpret and respond to the remedial requirements outlined in the MSA.

It tackles three pivotal inquiries concerning the provision of remedies:

  1. Whether companies are actively facilitating remediation or merely reporting such actions;
  2. The types of remedies most commonly reported; and
  3. The extent to which key stakeholders are involved in developing these remedies.

The findings, published in a Special Issue of the Journal of Modern Slavery, on “Access to Remedy for Survivors of All Forms of Slavery, Trafficking and Forced Labour” suggest that the Modern Slavery Act falls short in promoting effective remediation processes. It highlights a lack of significant engagement by businesses in remediation efforts under the MSA, indicating that the Act may not be effectively facilitating remediation processes.

New Research: Is the Australian Modern Slavery Act Fit For Purpose?

The Australian Modern Slavery Act 2018 (MSA) aims to combat modern slavery in the operations and supply chains of Australian businesses by requiring them to report on their efforts to address this issue. However, the question remains whether the Act is fit for purpose. This new report, based on data collected from a business survey and focus groups conducted in 2022 and 2023, offers new insights to inform policy change and business practices by examining the gaps between policy and practice in corporate modern slavery statements.

Effectiveness and barriers

Our investigation gathered input from respondents regarding the MSA’s effectiveness, best practices for implementing remediation measures, and potential reforms. The report presents evidence of corporate responses triggered by the MSA and stakeholders’ perceptions of its impact. Findings reveal a broad consensus that the current corporate responses to the Australian MSA are generally not benefiting victim-survivors of modern slavery. While the MSA raises awareness in the best case, it may also provide a superficial appearance of compliance for businesses that continue to depend on opaque supply chains and cheap labor without substantive commitment to addressing abuses.

Two critical issues highlighted by survey and focus group participants for improving policy and practices to address modern slavery are enhancing supplier relationships and stakeholder engagement. Respondents identified several barriers to effective remediation, including current procurement practices, low trust between suppliers and reporting entities, and inadequate resourcing by businesses for remediation efforts that would compensate and empower victim-survivors of modern slavery. Remediation is a crucial aspect of addressing modern slavery, and effective processes must prioritise risk to people over risk to business.

Remediation and potential reform

The findings also offer insights into practices that may contribute to more effective remediation of modern slavery, providing valuable lessons for government policy focus and businesses seeking to improve their approach to remedy. Survey data indicates that participants who engage key stakeholders in remediation, such as trade unions, report the most effective approaches. Other essential tools include risk management practices like supplier training and increased transparency from suppliers—practices currently utilised by Australian businesses.

Data from this report and previous research demonstrate a strong desire for MSA reform and the need to incentivise improved practices. A majority of survey respondents:

  • Endorse establishing an Anti-Slavery Commissioner;
  • Support harmonising the MSA with international standards, such as the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), and emerging legislation in other countries;
  • Agree that mandating human rights due diligence requirements would lead to improved responses to addressing modern slavery;
  • Support a mix of policy measures, including sanctions and incentives (such as disqualification from government tenders, financial penalties, and director liability) to better tackle modern slavery.

There is a clear disconnect between policy and implementation when it comes to addressing modern slavery within the operations and supply chains of Australian businesses. This stems from a lack of transparency in corporate supply chains, which hinders both the detection and resolution of modern slavery issues. To effectively combat this, it is essential to prioritize enhancing supplier relationships and collaborating with key stakeholders such as trade unions. The problem can only be resolved if it is first acknowledged and understood. Gaining better insight into labor conditions in supply chains through engagement with frontline workers is a fundamental and indispensable initial measure in the battle against modern slavery.

All respondents advocated for reform of the MSA to drive company action that benefits victim-survivors of modern slavery, rather than merely promoting superficial compliance with the Act. This report, therefore, serves as a call to action for both policymakers and businesses to work together to enhance the effectiveness of the MSA and genuinely address the issue of modern slavery in corporate supply chains.