The role solicitors have in ensuring they and their clients play their part in fighting modern slavery will be reinforced by new guidance from the Law Society of England and Wales.

The practice note brings together legal requirements contained in the Modern Slavery Act, Bribery Acts and other legislation, and gives solicitors specific advice and examples of best practice for acting as a trusted adviser assisting their clients in meeting their anti-slavery obligations and managing their supply chains, as well as in their own firms.

It was launched last night by Law Society president Robert Bourns at an event that explored emerging best practice in the implementation of the Modern Slavery Act.

‘The International Labour Organisation has estimated there are 21 million people trapped in forced labour around the world, almost double the number of people taken in the history of the trans-Atlantic slave trade,’ said Robert Bourns.

‘Slavery is not a history lesson, it is a real and immediate problem.

‘The solicitor profession has a valuable role in combating it, by helping to ensure that the many organisations we advise play their part in preventing slavery and human trafficking.’

The practice note forms part of the Law Society’s focus on business and human rights, highlighting not only the legal and moral obligations but also the commercial and public relations advantage companies can gain from embedding a human rights focus into their business thinking.

‘A respect for human rights need not conflict with a company’s desire for profits and growth,’ said Robert Bourns.

‘A demonstrated and practical respect for human rights at every stage of the supply chain can help create jobs, promote sustainable growth, and set a company apart on the ethical standards consumers are increasingly looking for.

‘The United Kingdom was the first to produce a National Action Plan to implement the United Nations Guiding Principles on Human Rights and Business, and the solicitor profession has a vital role in helping business understand the role human rights must play in their daily business practices.’