Modern slavery exists today in Australia and around the world. Government estimates found that over a two-year period, up to 1900 people in Australia experienced modern slavery.² Globally, over 40 million people are estimated to live in conditions of modern slavery,³ including 16 million in private sector supply chains.4Despite there being no universally accepted definition of modern slavery, the term is commonly used to refer to exploitative practices including forced labour, slavery, servitude, debt bondage, human trafficking, deceptive recruiting for labour services, the worst forms of child labour and forced marriage. Australia’s Modern Slavery Act 2018(Cth) (Australian Act) is the first legislation in the world to define modern slavery.5Modern slavery practices constitute serious crimes under Australian law,6 and seriously violate a person’s human rights and dignity.7 Individuals working in agriculture,8 construction,9domestic work,10 meat processing,11 cleaning, hospitality and food service12 industries in Australia are reported to be more likely to be impacted by modern slavery practices — such as forced labour — than in other industries. If they are a temporary migrant worker, this vulnerability increases.13Countries with enacted and proposed modern slavery legislation include the United Kingdom (UK),14 California,15 the Netherlands,16 and Canada.17 Legislation in France18 and laws proposed by the European Union highlight the importance of broader human rights risk management across the entire value of chain of a company. Since the implementation of the Australian Act in 2019, business awareness in Australia has further strengthened and been accompanied by growing expectations from external stakeholders such as civil society, investors, and customers. Although there are significant challenges posed by complex global supply chains where visibility can be limited, many businesses now view modern slavery as a critical risk for the business and the people it may impact.This report aims to support businesses to better understand how they can effectively address and report on modern slavery risks by building practical knowledge about the role and function of effective grievance mechanisms. It is hoped that businesses will use this report and the supplementary guidance note to support how they establish and operate effective grievance mechanisms. These publications also aim to enable business to better report under the Australian Act.The United Nations (UN) Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs),19 describe grievance mechanisms as a critical means by which an affected person or stakeholder can raise a human rights concern and lodge a complaint with a business enterprise to seek remedy.20 The UNGPs state that for grievances to be addressed early and remediated directly, business enterprises should establish or participate in effective operational-level grievance mechanisms for individuals and communities who may be adversely impacted. Grievance mechanisms also help businesses to identify their involvement in modern slavery practices, thereby supporting human rights due diligence — a process by which companies can identify, prevent, mitigate and account for how they address their adverse human rights impacts.
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