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21 Apr 2016

Michael Quayle, of Freshfields in Lexology

UK: Recent convictions of business owners over modern slavery provides cautionary tale for global businesses

"Modern Slavery - Closer Than You Think?", 11 Apr 2016

January 2016 saw what has been reported as the first conviction of a UK-based business owner for a human trafficking offence...Mohammed Rafiq, owner of the UK bed-making business Kozee Sleep, was convicted of conspiracy to traffic by Leeds Crown Court... Rafiq’s conviction followed that of two Hungarian gangmasters who were found guilty of supplying the UK factories run by KozeeSleep and its subsidiary Layzee Sleep with slave labour...In the wake of the Rafiq case, the Anti-Slavery Commissioner promised that there will be "many more" convictions to come...There has also been an upturn in slavery-related civil claims in the UK, with a group of Lithuanian workers suing Kent-based “Happy Egg” producer DJ Houghton and its directors for forcing them to work...in inhuman and degrading conditions. These two cases provide a cautionary tale for global businesses...With the introduction of the Modern Slavery Act 2015, increasingly close attention will be paid to the efforts made by global businesses in this regard, and they will need to carefully review existing policies and procedures worldwide to ensure they are adequate.