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Boohoo investigating accusations of modern slavery practices in Leicester factory

Sadiyah Ismailjee
06 July 2020

Fast fashion retailer, Boohoo has said it is investigating accusations of modern slavery practices at factories in Leicester where employees are paid as little as little as £3.50 an hour.

The Sunday Times has released an investigation saying an “undeclared” supplier was “making garments for the fashion retailer while allegedly paying staff as little as £3.50 an hour and flouting social distancing rules".

The investigation involved an undercover Sunday Times reporter claiming to have spent two days working for a Leicester-based factory which supplies Boohoo and was told to expect £3.50 an hour, despite the minimum wage in Britain for those aged 25 and over being £8.72.

The factory, which displayed the sign Jaswal Fashions, was also operating last week during the localised coronavirus lockdown without additional hygiene or social distancing measures in place.

The undercover reporter also obtained covert video footage of himself packing garments made in the factory under the label of Nasty Gal, which is owned by the fast-fashion group.

Boohoo Group said the investigation exposing the supplier was not a declared supplier to the business and that it is also no longer trading as a garment manufacturer.

The company said: "A different company is using Jaswal's former premises and we are currently trying to establish the identity of this company."

Boohoo Group further responded to the investigation by ensuring it will stop suppliers from working with this company and immediately review its contracts with any suppliers who have sub-contracted work to the manufacturer in question.

"We are taking immediate action to thoroughly investigate how our garments were in their hands, will ensure that out suppliers immediately cease working with this company and we will urgently review our relationship with any supplier who have contracted work to the manufacturer in question".

The fast fashion retailer said: “We are keen and willing to work with local officials to raise standards because we are absolutely committed to eradicating any instance of non-compliance and to ensuring that the actions of a few do not continue to undermine the excellent work of many of our suppliers in the area, who provide good jobs and good working conditions.”

Boohoo Group also thanked The Sunday Times by saying: "We are grateful to The Sunday Times for highlighting the conditions at Jaswal Fashions, which, if as observed and reported by the undercover reporter, are totally unacceptable and fall woefully short of any standards acceptable in any workplace".

In addition, the company highlighted that it has undertaken a number of actions in recent times to further strengthen its teams, procedures and processes and will continue to review and progress these actions in the future. This includes:

  • "Introduced in 2019 industry-leading 14 day payment terms for our UK manufacturers."
  • “Retained in late 2019 an independent third party compliance organisation to strengthen our compliance and auditing programme”.
  • "Commenced earlier this year a review of all Tier One and Tier Two UK suppliers, which includes a full audit of all of our suppliers' manufacturing facilities. This audit process is being carried out in accordance with the Group's existing procedures and standards, including the mapping of people records and hours worked back to the electronic payment of wages into bank accounts to ensure full compliance with minimum wage regulations. The Group continues to look at ways to further strengthen its audit procedures and processes."
  • "A requirement for UK suppliers as part of our review of the UK supply base is to acknowledge the Group's code of conduct and provide full disclosure of their own manufacturing locations and details of any manufacturers where work is sub-contracted. Non-compliance with this programme will not be tolerated."

The Sunday Times investigation shortly follows after Boohoo Group defended its position on the use of garment making factories in Leicester after a number were forced to close due to COVID-19 cases among workers.

The company face allegations from campaigners at Labour Behind the Label, who said workers were forced to work at factories which supplied Boohoo even while they were sick with the virus.

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