Boohoo is investigating claims of exploitative working conditions at its supplier in Leicester, U.K.
According to an undercover investigation conducted by the Sunday Times, workers at the Jaswal Fashions factory in Leicester are being paid as little as £3.50 per hour ($4.37) — less than half of the U.K.’s £8.72 minimum wage for persons aged 25-plus. What’s more, the Times reported that the conditions were “unsafe” amid the COVID-19 outbreak, with few workers wearing face masks despite Leicester being in lockdown.
For its part, Boohoo said that if the conditions outlined in the Times are true, they are “totally unacceptable and fall woefully short of any standards acceptable in any workplace.” The fast-fashion company, which owns its namesake brand as well as Nasty Gal, PrettyLittleThing and Karen Millen, added that overseas pricing “is much more competitive” but it chooses to use British manufacturers because it “enables shorter lead times and supports our agile business model.”
Through its early investigations, Boohoo said it has found that Jaswal Fashions is not a declared supplier and is no longer trading, adding that it believes another company has taken over Jaswal’s former premises.
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“We are taking immediate action to thoroughly investigate how our garments were in their hands, will ensure that our suppliers immediately cease working with this company, and we will urgently review our relationship with any suppliers who have sub-contracted work to the manufacturer in question,” the company stated in a release.
Prior to the Times report, Boohoo had already been under fire over a report from Labour Behind the Label. The workers’ rights group alleged that employees had been forced to come in sick, despite the COVID-19 outbreak, at some Leicester factories used by the company. Boohoo said it was “looking into” the allegations but said it has taken measures to safeguard staff from the coronavirus, including making PPE and other hygiene products available to suppliers free of charge. Additionally, Boohoo said it has retained the services of a third-party compliance specialist since 2019 to “strengthen its compliance and auditing program.”
In addition to Boohoo’s internal investigation, the U.K.’s National Crime Agency has announced a broader investigation into Leicester’s garment industry, after whistleblowers sounded the alarm last week about alleged poor working conditions in the district.