What is the Modern Slavery Act Australia and how to comply?

24th April 2024

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Brian Kraft



Global estimates of modern slavery are at 50 million, meaning nearly one in every 150 people in the world is in some form of forced labour or forced marriage. The International Labour Organisation estimates that in Australia there are 15,000 people in slave-like conditions. To address this, in 2018, Australia introduced the Modern Slavery Act 2018 (Cth) to combat modern slavery and human trafficking.

Here we unpack what the Modern Slavery Act Australia is, who needs to report, statement requirements, quality reporting guidance, the 2022 review that is underway, and how to comply with the Modern Slavery Act Australia.

What is the Modern Slavery Act Australia? 

The Modern Slavery Act 2018 is a law in Australia that aims to combat modern slavery and human trafficking. The law requires certain large businesses and other entities operating in Australia to report annually on the actions they have taken to address modern slavery risks in their operations and supply chains.

The Act is intended to increase transparency and accountability in relation to modern slavery risks, and to encourage businesses to take action to address these risks and protect workers in their operations and supply chains.

The Act lists eight exploitations that are classified as modern slavery, including human trafficking, slavery, servitude, forced marriage, forced labour, debt bondage, deceptive recruitment and the worst forms of child labour, which involve slavery practices or hazardous work involving children.

Who must report to Australia’s Modern Slavery Act? 

The Act applies to entities that have an annual consolidated revenue of at least AUD$100 million and that conduct any part of their business in Australia. These entities are required to prepare a slavery statement each financial year that complies with the reporting criteria presented in the Act.

Voluntary Modern Slavery statements  

Companies who do not meet the current revenue threshold may submit a voluntary modern slavery statement. A voluntary statement is often prepared by companies or organisations that want to demonstrate their commitment to addressing modern slavery and human trafficking risks in their operations and supply chains, even if they do not meet the revenue threshold or other criteria required by the legislation. A voluntary modern slavery statement must comply with the same criteria in the Act.

Voluntary statements can be a useful tool for companies and organisations to communicate their commitment to responsible business practices and to encourage transparency and accountability in relation to modern slavery risks. They can also help to build trust with stakeholders and consumers and differentiate the company or organisation from its competitors.

Modern Slavery Act Australia – how to comply   

Under the Modern Slavery Act 2018 in Australia, entities that meet the revenue threshold and operate in Australia are required to prepare a Modern Slavery Statement (MSS) each financial year. To comply with the Act, entities must include the following information:

  1. A description of the entity’s structure, operations, and supply chains, including information about the goods and services it provides and the countries in which it operates.
  2. A description of the entity’s modern slavery risks, including information about the specific types of slavery or trafficking that may occur in its operations or supply chains.
  3. A description of the actions the entity has taken to assess and address modern slavery risks in its operations and supply chains, including information about the due diligence processes it has undertaken, the policies and procedures it has implemented, and the training it has provided to its employees and business partners.
  4. A description of any actions the entity has taken to support the identification and protection of victims of modern slavery, and to prevent modern slavery from occurring in its operations and supply chains.
  5. A description of the performance indicators and targets used to measure the effectiveness of the entity’s actions to address modern slavery risks, and a summary of the results achieved.
  6. The name of the person or persons who is/are responsible for ensuring that the entity complies with the reporting requirements under the Act and the contact details of the person or persons.
  7. A statement that the information provided in the MSS is accurate and complete to the best of the person’s knowledge and belief.

The statement must be signed off by a director of the highest governing body and submitted to the Australian government for publication on a public registry.

What is the annual Modern Slavery Act reporting deadline? 

Businesses are required to submit their modern slavery statement within six months of the end of their financial year. For instance, companies with a financial year ending on 31 December, who submitted their modern slavery statement before 30 June 2023, must submit their second-year statements before 30 June 2024. Similarly, those with a financial year ending on 30 June 2024, should submit their second-year statements by 31 December 2024.

Modern Slavery Act guidance  

Monash University published a research report in 2022 reviewing modern slavery statements from the ASX 100, a good resource on what to do and what not to do for companies preparing or revising their statements. Breaking down disclosure strengths and weaknesses, quality of responses and areas for improvement provides well researched insights on how to improve the quality of the modern slavery statement.  

Strong statements address the following:

  • Transparent disclosure of structure and operations
  • Other reporting formality (consultation process, signatory authority, other matters)
  • Detail of suppliers’ locations
  • Detail of the risk scoping process, risk assessment framework and the potential risks identified in operations and supply chains
  • A forward-looking action plan

The Modern Slavery Act review and potential changes 

review of the Modern Slavery Act was announced in 2020, with final submissions closing end of 2022 and the review expected to be announced in 2024.

The review was seeking input on such questions as has the Modern Slavery Act had a positive impact, are reporting requirements appropriate and are additional measures required to improve compliance with Modern Slavery Act reporting obligations?

Potential changes that may be recommended include increasing the scope of the reporting requirements to cover more companies, increasing penalties for non-compliance, and providing more guidance and support for companies to help them identify and address modern slavery risks in their operations and supply chains.

Additionally, the review may consider the inclusion of mandatory independent assurance for the reporting process, and the creation of an independent commissioner for modern slavery.

We’ll be following these developments closely so sign up to our mailing list, follow our socials or connect with our Modern Slavery expert Brian Kraft.

Want to learn more about the Modern Slavery Act Australia reporting requirements or need guidance on your modern slavery statement? 

We have a team of human rights experts passionate about supporting organisations on their counter-modern slavery journeys.  If you would like to learn more about our human rights services, get support with any of the above steps, or understand how we can help you address modern slavery in your business reach out to our experts.