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Combatting modern slavery in the health services sector 

Business and Human Rights
Three medical staff walking down a hallway

A new guide to help the health services sector manage their modern slavery risks is now available: Modern Slavery in the Health Services Sector: Practical responses to managing risks to people.

The guide, developed by the Australian Human Rights Commission in collaboration with KPMG Australia, is the third in a suite of sector-specific guides which aim to help Australian businesses understand and manage their modern slavery risks and respond effectively to the Modern Slavery Act 2018 (Cth).  

The recent spotlight on health sector organisations as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic elevated scrutiny from around the world and brought into sharp relief the need for a people-centred response, including during public health emergencies where human rights protections regarding slavery and servitude continue to apply. The guide showcases examples of current good practice in the sector and provides tips on how to manage key risk areas.  

The Modern Slavery Act requires certain large companies to report annually on their efforts to address risks of modern slavery in their global operations and supply chains. The Act was introduced in the context of an increase in stakeholder expectations globally around the human rights performance of businesses.  

According to the Global Slavery Index more than 40 million people around the world are living in modern slavery conditions, and up to 15,000 victims are living in Australia. Modern slavery refers to a range of serious human rights violations, which are also crimes in Australia. They include trafficking in persons, slavery, servitude, forced marriage, forced labour, debt bondage, the worst forms of child labour, and deceptive recruiting for labour or services.  

The guide is relevant to health sector entities that are required to report under the Modern Slavery Act, and their suppliers. The complex interplay of public and private relationships and ownership structures, means many organisations within in the health services sector need practical advice on how to respond to their modern slavery risks. 

You can read the KPMG Australia and Australian Human Rights Commission’s guide for the health services sector here.