This statement sets out the London Borough of Merton’s (the Council) actions in working to understand all potential modern slavery risks related to our Council and to put in place steps that are aimed at ensuring that there is no modern slavery or human trafficking within our Council and our supply chains. This statement relates to actions and activities during the financial year 1 April 2022 to 31 March 2023.
The Council recognises its responsibility to take a robust approach to modern slavery and human trafficking. The Council supports the Modern Slavery Act 2015 and opposes modern slavery and human trafficking. It is committed to ensuring that such practices have no place within its supply chain or other activities.
In addition to the Council’s responsibility as an employer, it also acknowledges its duty to notify the Secretary of State of suspected victims of modern slavery or human trafficking as introduced by section 52 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015.
For the purposes of this document we have followed the Government’s six areas of activity set out in; Transparency in supply chains: a practical guide and the LGA’s Modern Slavery: Transparency in supply chains statements.
1. Definition of Modern Slavery
The term ‘Modern Slavery' captures a whole range of types of exploitation, many of which occur together. These are defined by Unseen UK to include but are not limited to:
- Sexual exploitation: this includes sexual abuse, forced prostitution and the abuse of children for the production of child abuse images/videos.
- Domestic servitude: this involves victims being forced to work in usually private households, performing domestic chores and childcare duties.
- Forced labour: this can happen in various industries, including construction, manufacturing, laying driveways, hospitality, food packaging, agriculture, maritime and beauty (nail bars).
- Criminal exploitation: This can be understood as the exploitation of a person to commit a crime, such as pick-pocketing, shop-lifting, cannabis cultivation, drug trafficking and other similar activities that are subject to penalties and imply financial gain for the trafficker.
- Human trafficking: this requires that a person arranges or facilitates the travel of another person with a view to that person being exploited. The offence can be committed even where the victim consents to the travel. This reflects the fact that a victim may be deceived by the promise of a better life or job or may be a child who is influenced to travel by an adult.
- Other forms of exploitation: organ removal; forced begging; forced benefit fraud; forced marriage and illegal adoption.
2. Council structure and supply chains
This statement covers all the activities of the London Borough of Merton, which are underpinned by the Council’s Business Plan and strategic objectives (which for 2022/23 are located here: Finance: Business Plan) as determined by its Council structure and values.
3. Relevant Council policies and procedures
3a. Within our own organisation
The Council reviews its policies and procedures on an ongoing basis to ensure they remain compliant and fit for purpose. We have a number of policies and procedures in place that contribute to ensuring modern slavery does not occur in our Council. These include:
- Whistleblowing policy: The Council encourages all its employees and those employed on a contract for service or through an agency to report any concerns related to the direct activities, or the supply chains of the Council. This includes any circumstances that may give rise to an enhanced risk of modern slavery or human trafficking. The Council's whistleblowing procedure is designed to make it easy for workers to make disclosures, without fear of retaliation.
- Recruitment/Agency workers guidance documents: The Council, though our neutral managed vendor, uses only specified, reputable employment agencies to source labour and always verifies the practices of any new agency it is using before accepting workers from that agency.
- Robust recruitment procedure: For both substantive staff and agency workers. This process is compliant with UK employment legislation and includes several pre-employment checks, for example “right to work” document checks, obtaining references and understanding any employment gaps. Banking information is verified by Payroll to ensure salary payment is going to an individual’s account and not a business account. DBS checks are undertaken for relevant posts.
- Awareness-raising: The Council has raised awareness of modern slavery issues within our organisation by ensuring that all officers within Commercial Services have completed the CIPS online course on Ethical Procurement & Supply. This is completed each financial year and monitored by the Head of Commercial Services. Officers that have responsibility for procurement but that sit outside of Commercial Services are encouraged to complete the online CIPS course. Information regarding Modern Slavery, how to identify it and what to do if identified is also promoted via the Council's Procurement Toolkit and Commercial Services information pages on the Council's intranet.
- Real Living Wage and London Living Wage: The Council operates a Job Evaluation Scheme to ensure that all employees are paid fairly and equitably. As part of its commitment to being a good employer, the Council has been an accredited Living Wage Employer since December 2022. To maintain the Living Wage accreditation it is mandatory for the Council to pay all staff the living wage. Ensuring suppliers pay their staff the Living Wage is mandated through our procurement process.
- Safeguarding: The Council is committed to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and young people and adults. This is achieved through safe, careful recruitment and vigilant ongoing management. Recruitment and Selection is in accordance with our Safer Recruitment policy, and we rigorously apply all lawful safeguarding measures including DBS checks. More widely, we work in partnership with other local organisations as part of the Merton Safeguarding Children Partnership and Merton Safeguarding Adults Board. These Boards establish protocols for identifying and addressing safeguarding risks, including setting out minimum expectations regarding safer recruitment, safer commissioning and guidance on dealing with suspected modern slavery concerns.
3b. For our supply chain
- Procurement policy: The policy sets out the Council’s overarching approach to its procurement of goods, services and works. Accompanying documents include a Standard Selection Questionnaire for suppliers to complete in high value/ above threshold procurements.
- Terms and Conditions: The Council's terms and conditions of contract contain a clause prohibiting suppliers from preventing their staff from joining and participating in any trade union or association of their choice. The Council's terms and conditions of contract contain clauses which require contractors to adopt and promote Merton's whistleblowing policy.
4. Assessing and managing risk
The Council understands the risk that all forms of modern slavery pose, both to its own residents, visitors, and internationally through the global nature of modern supply chains. Accordingly we are putting in place steps to eliminate and eradicate acts of modern slavery and human trafficking within our business, supply chains, sub-contractors and partners by adopting a zero-tolerance policy in respect of modern slavery and human trafficking.
The Council is fully committed to using all available avenues to tackle modern slavery by using its statutory powers, its role as a public contracting authority, and through utilising the strengths of all its partnerships with the Police, the NHS, voluntary and third sector organisations.
5. Due Diligence and supplier assessment
Human rights due diligence is not about the risk to the Council, it is about the risk to the people involved in providing services and producing goods in the supply chain.
The most effective way to apply limited resources to due diligence is to ensure action is targeted at those spend categories where the risks are highest, taking into consideration the industry, its geographical source, and the nature of the supplier relationship. To this end we focus most attention on our major suppliers of:
- Waste, street cleansing and environmental maintenance
- Facilities Management including maintenance and cleaning
As part of the Standard Selection Questionnaire (SQ) issued to all bidders in relation to tenders over the EU thresholds, we ask organisations whether they are required to produce a Modern Slavery Statement and to provide a link to the statement on their website if they are in-scope. All tender processes require bidders to provide confirmation that they are compliant with the Act. The response of the highest scoring bidder is then verified prior to recommending the award of the contract
All abnormally low-cost tenders are challenged.
We regularly review contractual spending.
If identified, we will highlight for our suppliers any risks identified concerning modern slavery and refer them to the relevant agencies to be addressed
We will refer for investigation, via the National Crime Agency's national referral mechanism, any of our contractors identified as a cause for concern regarding modern slavery
Responding to an incident of modern slavery
As noted above, due diligence includes the process of identifying human rights risks in a Council´s supply chain, preventing them from occurring or mitigating those risks and reducing their impact. It includes planning remedial or corrective action if such an incident is discovered.
Going beyond the Council’s legal ‘duty to notify’ any incidents of Modern Slavery, the Council is committed to following government guidance, wherever practicable:
- to engage and work with suppliers to mitigate any issues
- make staff aware of the Modern Slavery Helpline as their first port of call
- adopt an approach that would produce the safest outcome for the potential victims, using any leverage we may have as a public sector membership Council.
We will know the effectiveness of the steps that we are taking to ensure that Modern Slavery is not taking place within our organisation or supply chains by:
- Investigating allegations or complaints, received from employees, the public, or law enforcement agencies regarding modern slavery and human trafficking.
- Requiring all staff working in supply chain management, procurement and HR to have completed training on modern slavery.
- Reviewing and evaluating high risk supply chains, periodically using the modern slavery assessment tool to monitor supply chains as part of on-going contract management activity throughout the life of the contract to measure progress.
- Updating our suite of contract clauses so they include provisions of the Modern Slavery Act in line with our pre-procurement clauses.
The Council raises awareness of modern slavery issues on an annual basis by circulating informative internal communications and providing training for staff on Modern Slavery.
There are currently two e-learning packages available to our workforce:
- Modern Slavery
- Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking
Completion of these e-learning courses is not currently mandatory for staff, and during 2023/24 we will review this position with a view to determining whether there are specific job roles for which this training should be mandated.
Aims for our continuous improvement
The Council’s focus for the next 12 months with regards to the Modern Slavery Act 2015 is as follows:
- As a means of carrying out due diligence on the key suppliers identified in the higher risk categories the Council will review and evaluate high risk supply chains, periodically (and where required) using the Modern Slavery Assessment Tool (MSAT) to monitor supply chains as part of on-going contracts.
- To determine whether there are specific job roles for which the Council mandates completion of an e-learning package on modern slavery and introduce this requirement accordingly.
- To review, and update where necessary, the Council’s duty to refer arrangements to ensure these are fit for purpose and understood by all relevant employees.