This blog was written by guest contributor Dipak Vashi, of The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW).
Did you know that there are over 130,000 people trapped in conditions of slavery in the UK? And the nationality of victims most commonly referred to the government’s Modern Slavery national referral mechanism is British. This is a very real issue that is happening right now across the UK.
Modern slavery is an insidious and cruel crime, which occurs with frequency across the UK and beyond, and accountants are in a unique position to help tackle it. ICAEW members are in a privileged position, in that you see the nuts and bolts of your client’s business and are therefore able to spot potential signs of modern slavery first.
Many of the victims are forced to work for little or no pay in small businesses, typically cash based businesses involving manual work. Have you ever noticed something a little bit odd in a client’s activities? A business with output that is far higher than official staffing records? Unusual or unexplained business activities? Payments to staff that appear not to exist? Would you be able to spot the signs of modern slavery and if you did, what would you do about it? Turn a blind eye?
Modern slavery is a financial crime. It is a predicate offence to money laundering. But it is also a human rights abuse. The current system is broken. It does not encourage ICAEW members and auditors to spot and report instances of modern slavery. And it should come as no surprise that, currently, accountants are not at the forefront of fighting the problem. We are not suggesting that ICAEW members have the sole responsibility for tackling this crime, far from it. A joined up, multi stakeholder approach is needed that includes law enforcement, government, charities, and business. With new tools available and utilising the skills ICAEW members already possess, our approach to this crime can be transformed.
ICAEW have also produced information relating to Modern Slavery which provides information on red flags, how to meet regulatory requirements and how you can go beyond compliance to take more of a proactive advocacy role in tackling this crime.
What can accountants do to stop modern slavery? Of course, there are a variety of ways this can be done, but the key message is: silence is not an option.
We have three seminars on modern slavery coming up, sign up is here: https://events.icaew.com/pd/24780/modern-slavery-responsibility-detection-and-accountability
Contact us to see how we can support you.