Academics said the Modern Slavery Act had prompted firms to be more open about tackling the problem overseas but there was a "blind spot" which "may stem from the assumption that the U.K. government is already handling the problem of forced labour within its borders, so companies do not need to."
But the report said there were "design flaws" in public regulatory initiatives and "poor enforcement."
In a paper published in the journal Regulation & Governance, Genevieve LeBaron, senior lecturer at the University of Sheffield, and Andrew Crane, professor of business and society at the University of Bath, said firms needed to report on the effectiveness of efforts and not just provide details of initiatives.
“There is without doubt value in company efforts to combat forced labour in supply chains operating in countries where national regulatory enforcement of labour standards is weak,” they said. “Seldom acknowledged, however, is the fact that the problem is not exclusive to developing countries in the global south, but is also prevalent in developed countries in the north, including the U.K.”
The report said slavery was a known problem in U.K. supply chains in food, construction and the garment and household goods industries.
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