‘The UK construction companies in breach of the Modern Slavery Act’ is a long-form investigation (2,500 words) into the failure of British construction companies to comply with the UK Modern Slavery Act. The investigation also includes the case study of one of the major hot spots of modern slavery in the construction sector: Indian brick kilns. I have gathered original data using automation, web scraping, data analysis and FOI. The UK Modern Slavery Act, introduced in 2015, requires UK registered companies with more than £36 million of annual turnover to publish a Modern Slavery Statement every year, setting out the steps they have taken to prevent and address modern slavery in their supply chains. Taking the story of two workers released from bonded labour in brick kilns in India as a starting point, the investigation explores how many UK companies are within the scope of the Act and how many of them do not comply with it, by not publishing a Modern Slavery Statement. From more than 1400 construction companies in the scope of the Act, 20% have not published a statement for any year, and almost 40% did not publish a statement last year. The story also examines the poor quality of the statements that are published, the failures of the Act to hold companies to account and the consequences this can have on human rights abuses in developing countries, highlighting the need to reform the Act.
In response to a Freedom of Information Request, the Home Office acknowledged that their approach to organisations identified as not having published a statement was under active review and that they were also considering potential future changes to section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015.
The investigation was picked up by NGOs such as Anti-Slavery International, Hope for Justice UK, Slave-Free Alliance, and Sustain Worldwide, among others.