BooHoo’s ‘industrial scale’ wage shame: Fresh crisis for online retailer as audits of 18 textile factories suggest workers are paid as little as £3-an-hour
- Audit reports claim that workers in supplier factories paid below minimum wage
- The documents also highlighted inconsistencies in working-hour records
- Boohoo has suspended trade with the suppliers found to be breaching rules
- The company said its own investigation had brought to light similar issues
Online retailer Boohoo has been hit with a fresh crisis after audit reports claimed that some workers in at least 18 of the company’s supplier factories have been paid below minimum wage.
An exclusive Guardian investigation has found third-party audit reports claiming that at the time they were written, in parts of the Boohoo supply chain, some workers may have been paid only £3 to £4 per hour.
The documents also allege that workers in the Leicester-based factories were not clocking in and out for shifts; that working hour-records were contradicted by workers in interviews; that hours were given to workers in handwritten notes rather than an automated system and that there were inconsistencies in working-hour records.
Boohoo has found itself at the centre of a fresh crisis after audit reports seen by the Guardian claimed that some workers at at least 18 of its supplier factories in Leicester were being paid less than minimum wage
Responding to the documents seen by the Guardian, Boohoo said it ‘appears to be a selection of commentary from a limited number of the third-party audits that have been completed.’
However, the company also said that its own investigations had brought to light similar issues among some of its suppliers.
They said that trade had been suspended with these suppliers, which include ‘some of the manufacturers identified’ in the investigation until the issues were resolved.
Boohoo has not confirmed which of its suppliers had been suspended.
The company said it would be inappropriate to comment any further until its own investigation and another led by QCled had been completed.
Of the 18 factories identified in the Guardian’s investigation, eight denied some or all of the claims while the other 10 did not respond to the paper’s requests for comment. Pictured: Leicester High Street on August 10
The audit reports, which date from 2017 to a few months ago, also alleged other concerns including inadequate health and safety policies, a lack of holiday pay records and non-payment of furlough money.
Although the reports had been circulated to some factory managers, there is no suggestion that Boohoo had access to the documents.
MP for Leicester East Claudia Webbe said that the allegations in the reports are unforgivable and she has called on Boohoo to supply a complete list of its suppliers.
Of the 18 factories identified in the Guardian’s investigation, eight denied some or all of the claims while the other 10 did not respond to the paper’s requests for comment.
Nik Hammer, an associate professor in employment studies at the University of Leicester said the audit reports appeared to be a ‘smoking gun’ on the fashion industry’s oversight on minimum wage.
Boohoo said it ‘appears to be a selection of commentary from a limited number of the third-party audits that have been completed.’ The company also said that its own investigation had uncovered similar issues with some of their suppliers
Earlier this year Boohoo saw its share value plunge by £1.3billion after Home Secretary Priti Patel formally asked the National Crime Agency to investigate the brand over claims they were using an alleged £3.50-an-hour sweatshop in Leicester.
The price dip at the beginning of July after Patel stepped in amid claims the factories were operating without social distancing measures in place with workers not all wearing masks.
At the time, an NCA spokesman said: ‘Within the last few days NCA officers, along with Leicestershire Police and other partner agencies, attended a number of business premises in Leicester area to assess concerns of modern slavery and human trafficking’.
Boohoo said it was ‘shocked and appalled’ by allegations that workers making its clothes were paid as little as £3.50 per hour.
The clothing company launched an independent investigation headed by a top business crime barrister and announced it would spend £10million on its supply chain.
Boohoo’s shares fell off a cliff at the start of July after questions were raised about the factories they use and the police were called in to look at ones in Leicester running during the pandemic