Executive summary of consultation on legislation to address modern slavery and worker exploitation: Summary of feedback

MBIE received 5,614 submissions through the consultation process consisting of 252 responses to an online survey, 178 email submissions, and 5,184 emailed submissions using a template prepared by World Vision, the Human Rights Commission, Trade Aid and Tearfund and promoted by World Vision, Trade Aid and Tearfund (the ‘World Vision, Trade Aid and Tearfund Template’). 

Overall, there was strong support for the proposed legislation’s objectives and graduated approach, under which all New Zealand entities would have responsibilities (noting that the World Vision, Trade Aid and Tearfund Template submissions supported due diligence for all entities). This support was consistent across different types of submitters, including across businesses. Submitters agreed that:

  • All entities should have to take reasonable and proportionate action if they become aware of modern slavery in their international operations and supply chains, and/or modern slavery or worker exploitation in their domestic operations and supply chains (95% support, excluding ‘unsure responses’).
  • All entities should be required to undertake due diligence to prevent, mitigate and remedy modern slavery and worker exploitation by New Zealand entities where they are the parent or holding company or have significant contractual control over the New Zealand entity (90% support).
  • Medium and large entities should be required to report annually on the due diligence they are undertaking to address modern slavery in their international operations and supply chains, and modern slavery and worker exploitation in their domestic operations and supply chains (87% support).
  • Large entities should be required to meet due diligence obligations to prevent and mitigate modern slavery in their international operations and supply chains, and modern slavery and worker exploitation in their domestic operations and supply chains (94% support).

Submitters were also generally supportive of the proposed annual revenue thresholds for defining “medium” ($20 million) and “large” ($50 million) entities. While a range of suggestions were made, both above and below the proposed figures, the proposed figures were the most frequently suggested. 

While there was strong support for the general concepts, many submitters were concerned about the lack of clarity with the terms used in the consultation document. They sought clearer definitions for terms such as “worker exploitation”, “modern slavery”, “operations” and “reasonable and proportionate”. Some submitters also noted the need for careful consideration of the scope and breadth of obligations and how they apply to different entities and environments, advocating for a flexible approach.

A few submitters were concerned that the requirements would be overly onerous for small and medium sized businesses (SMEs). A few submitters raised concerns about including worker exploitation and modern slavery in the same legislative framework, saying these are distinct things.

Many submitters identified the need to uphold Te Tiriti and reflect Māori values in the legislation. Many submitters noted an expectation that Kaupapa Māori and Te Tiriti o Waitangi would equally be incorporated into all aspects of implementing the legislation.

Many submitters agreed that non-compliance should be penalised. Many considered that penalties should vary depending on the type of obligation that is breached and be proportionate to an entity’s size. Some submitters emphasised working with non-compliant organisations to improve their practices in the first instance, rather than penalising non-compliance, to help build a culture of collaboration and to identify exploitation rather than hide it. A few submitters were opposed to the use of penalties. Others said that penalties should be restricted to disclosure, and this should apply only to large entities.

Most submitters considered that remediation was an important part of victim support. They agreed that the legislation should require entities to remedy any harms they have caused or contributed to, where there was a clear link between their actions and the harm. Many suggested that remedies should be reasonable and proportionate to the level of the harm.

Most submitters considered an independent oversight mechanism should be established as part of the legislation, over and above the role of a government regulator. There was support for an independent body to provide oversight, guidance, research, and drive best practice for implementation. 

Most submitters considered that a central register for disclosure statements was also necessary. They considered this should be open and publicly accessible, and there was also strong support for using the register as a hub for business support.

Most submitters also identified a need for comprehensive support and guidance. Many advocated for clear reporting guidance which includes mandatory reporting criteria and good practice examples. They asked for further materials, including legislative guidelines, and significant programmes to improve education and capability.

Submitters using the World Vision, Trade Aid and Tearfund Template were in strong support for due diligence and said that it is important that Aotearoa New Zealand take action to address modern slavery and worker exploitation in supply chains. These submitters requested:

  1. A law that applies to international and domestic supply chains operating in Aotearoa New Zealand, to all entities of all sizes (small, medium, and large businesses) and to private and public sectors.
  2. Due diligence that requires entities to identify risks and cases of modern slavery and exploitation and take action to address what they find. From there, they should publicly report on those actions and the impacts they have had.
  3. That there are penalties for non-compliance as this will set the law up from the onset to create positive change and help create a level playing field for businesses.

These submitters also provided reasons why such legislation is required, which aligned with the primary and secondary objectives in the proposal. Submitters stressed that modern slavery is fundamentally unacceptable, and an affront to New Zealand values, and that New Zealanders have an obligation to use their privileges to help those less well off. This group of submitters also highlighted the need for consumers to know that the goods and services they purchase are not made using slavery, and to understand the devastating effects that forced labour and exploitation have on children in particular, and on adults and their communities as well. As one submitter put it: “Those who are trapped in slavery can't give you feedback on this. Think about that.”

MBIE met with stakeholders from a range of businesses and industry organisations, Non-Government Organisation (NGOs), unions, and government entities. The comments and feedback received through those meetings were generally consistent with the themes identified in this summary of submissions. While not included in this submissions analysis, they are being considered as part of the policy development process.

Information and insights gained through the public consultation process will be used to inform and shape more detailed policy development for final decisions.

Consultation on modern slavery and worker exploitation

More information on modern slavery and worker exploitation