Practical guidance has been produced by the Scottish Government to help businesses identify and prevent human trafficking and exploitation across their operations.
Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf has also announced that he will write to all major Scottish companies who appear not to have met their duty to publish an annual statement outlining steps they have taken to prevent modern slavery in their business and supply chain, as ministers highlight this year's Anti-Slavery Day.
Under the Modern Slavery Act 2015, companies with a turnover of at least £36m are legally required to publish an annual slavery and human trafficking statement, clearly linked from the home page of their website. However, research undertaken by the Scottish Government shows that a significant minority of businesses do not appear to have published statements.
The guidance has been developed with advice from the corporate group established to support implementation of the Government's trafficking and exploitation strategy. Members include HSBC, the Co-op, Multiplex Construction, SSE and the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC).
It recommends that checks should be undertaken to ensure workers have access to identification documents, are not being held in debt bondage and are not being coerced. Employees should be given training to spot signs of exploitation and encouraged to report concerns to Police Scotland or the UK Modern Slavery Helpline 08000 121 700.
Speaking at a conference to mark Anti-Slavery Day, Mr Yousaf said: “Human trafficking and exploitation prey on the most vulnerable in society. Often hidden in plain sight and in legitimate businesses, these offences are on the increase worldwide. Since our trafficking and exploitation strategy was published in 2017 we have made significant progress, but businesses need to understand the risks and tackle the conditions that foster these crimes.
“With investors increasingly focusing on human trafficking as a business risk, this is one issue that boards simply cannot afford to ignore. The guidance launched today offers practical advice for businesses of all sizes and I hope it will help more companies to identify and trafficking and exploitation across their operations, including in their supply chains.
“Our biggest firms must lead by example, ensuring they are not complicit in these horrendous crimes, and that is why I am writing to companies to demand urgent action.”