Business and human rights

The ILO estimates that 20.9 million people are victims of forced labour at any point in time. Of these, 90 per cent are exploited by private individuals and enterprises.

Modern Slavery

Latest news & insights:

There are increasing legal duties and ethical pressures on businesses of all sizes to take action to manage their human rights impact. Failure to do so can risk criminal prosecution and irreparable damage to brand and consumer confidence. The UK’s Modern Slavery Act 2015 contains groundbreaking annual legal reporting obligations for businesses with a turnover of at least £36 million and is also becoming progressively more relevant to businesses with a lower turnover.

Penningtons Manches Cooper advises clients on compliance with these laws, as well as the principal international frameworks containing human rights requirements for businesses, including the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.

We keep clients up to date with the fast-paced developments, highlighting how advances in both national and international human rights frequently impact on business strategy. Increasingly modern slavery statements are being compared and critiqued by civil society, intensifying the scrutiny on compliance and remedy issues. Criminal prosecutions are rising and companies are now being held accountable in trafficking cases in the UK.

Our approach is both practical and strategic. We look at the reality of a situation, we consider the sector and the stakeholders, and suggest the best holistic solution - often by reflecting on the growing ethical awareness among customers and investors. We take the time to understand the many challenges faced by businesses when navigating the human rights risks in their often complex supply chains. Our experts include Gillian Rivers, who is the co-chair of the International Bar Association’s Human Trafficking Task Force, and Chris Syder, the sole UK employer representative in the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Governing Body, who was responsible for negotiating the ILO’s Forced Labour Protocol.

We understand the whole spectrum of business and human rights issues, covering modern slavery and supply chain matters. The list of global brands that have had significant problems in this area is multiplying. We are fortunate to advise major companies through to smaller private and owner-managed businesses in a wide variety of sectors, which gives us a broad perspective of the issues.

We offer expert advice on:

  • preparing annual anti-slavery and human trafficking statements
  • due diligence and procurement requirements and impact assessments
  • policy development to include training packages, such as an e-training option
  • human rights training
  • compliance with international and domestic law
  • human rights related complaints
  • internal investigations
  • revising commercial agreements that have a connection with supply chains
  • criminal prosecutions
  • effective stakeholder engagement

Recent work highlights

Frontline guidance on modern day slavery

Advising various companies on the requirements of existing and emerging legislation designed to counter human trafficking, modern day slavery and forced labour, including the UK Modern Slavery Act.

CBI initiatives

Representing the CBI when the UK Government formally adopted the ILO’s new Forced Labour Protocol in January 2016 and during the ILO’s discussions on modern slavery and related challenges in global supply chains in June 2016.

Corporate consultancy

Training a UK plc’s main board on the requirements of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 through to production and publication of its anti-slavery and human trafficking statement.

Related expertise

Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP

Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP is a limited liability partnership registered in England and Wales with registered number OC311575 and is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority under number 419867.

Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP