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Auditors’ minimum wage queries at 18 Boohoo factories

An investigation by The Guardian said audits dating between 2017 – 2020 highlighted some workers in the supply chain were being paid between £3-£4 per hour.

The reports seen by the newspaper also reportedly recorded cases of: workers not clocking in and out of their shifts; discrepancies in recorded working hours making it difficult to establish minimum wage; working hours set out in informal handwritten notes instead of being computerised; health and safety issues; non-payment of furlough money, holiday pay, missing or expired “right to work” documents.

The Guardian said Boohoo did not have access to the reports, which were sent to some factory managers and other brands. The newspaper also said that eight of the 18 factories denied the allegations, and ten did not respond to requests for comment.

A spokesperson for Boohoo said: “On the 8th July, we announced an independent review of our UK supply chain in Leicester.  This two-part approach saw us invest heavily in significant extra compliance and auditing resource to forensically investigate the allegations that had been made about mistreatment of people employed by garment manufacturers in the area.

“We also appointed senior barrister, Alison Levitt Q.C., to lead a comprehensive and fully independent review of our Leicester supply chain, which has included a public call for evidence.  The documentation that has been seen by The Guardian appears to be a selection of commentary from a limited number of the third party audits that have been completed.  Whilst we are deeply concerned by these findings, until these processes are concluded, we have had sight of all the facts and received Ms Levitt’s findings, it would be inappropriate for us to comment further.

“The group is committed to delivering the highest standards of ethics, compliance and transparency, and we have committed to sharing an update on the findings of Ms Levitt’s review, our response, and the actions that we will take to address any failings at the end of September.

“We will continue to offer our full support to raise standards where appropriate for the benefit of those employed in our supply chain, but will not hesitate to take more severe action when necessary.  We can confirm that due to the nature of the non-compliance that we have found in a small number of manufacturers during this process we have immediately suspended trading with them whilst they take the appropriate action to resolve the issues identified within the timeline we have set.

“This includes some of the manufacturers identified by The Guardian, as our own investigations have highlighted similar issues.  We feel that it is important to give owners the opportunity to show demonstrable, measurable and significant improvement to protect the jobs of those employed, but if we are left in any doubt about an owner’s true commitment to drive change in the time frame that we have set out we will have no choice but to terminate trading with them.

“We recognise that walking away from every factory where an issue is found would have a catastrophic impact on the livelihoods of those employed in the sector. Instead, we are working closely with a number of organisations, including the GLAA [Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority] and Slave Free Alliance, sharing our findings with them to support the important work that they do in ensuring that the rights of workers are protected and that everyone is treated fairly and paid appropriately.”

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