Boohoo’s supply chain workers in Leicester continue to be paid below minimum wage by factory bosses according to a new investigation.
Leicester textile factory bosses are continuing to pay workers far less than minimum wage despite audits and inspections of almost 300 factories in the wake of a major scandal which revealed many workers were being paid as little as £3.50 an hour.
According to a new investigation from anti-slavery charity Hope of Justice, reported by Sky News, fresh efforts to stamp out exploitation have simply driven factory bosses to get “really creative and innovative” about how they hide their practices.
An anonymous source who works at one of Boohoo’s 50 approved suppliers in Leicester showed the publication her official pay slips, which detail the amount of hours she has worked and show she was paid the minimum wage of £8.91.
However, she also revealed a separate sheet of paper which is reportedly given to her alongside each payslip, with a handwritten number detailing how much money she must withdraw in cash and return to the factory or face being sacked.
“They said, you know, ‘I can’t give you minimum wage, I can’t afford to pay you minimum wage because prices are very low in our product,” said the source, who has paid back hundreds of pounds to the factory.
“I’m worrying that if they find out that I’m not giving money back they might sack me.”
Boohoo is not thought to have been aware of the practice, which was reportedly put into place after the fast fashion giant demanded that workers at the factory were paid minimum wage.
Prior to Boohoo’s inspection of the factory, the source says they were earning just £5.50 an hour.
After the expose into exploitation at many of Boohoo’s suppliers was published last year, the retailer has launched numerous independent investigations and audits into its suppliers, cutting ties with any who were unable to demonstrate fair and transparent working practices.
It has now launched a new investigation into the latest claims, and said in a statement to the stock exchange: “Boohoo is committed to the highest standards of ethical compliance within its supply chain. Suppliers are wholly expected to adhere to these standards, and any concerns such as those raised by Sky News are immediately investigated.
“Since last year’s independent review, the group has repeatedly stated its determination in rebuilding a garment industry in Leicester with a robust, fair and transparent supply chain.
“Suppliers are visited more frequently, sub-contracting has been removed, products can only be purchased from our approved supplier list, mandatory whistle-blower helplines have been installed at every supplier, and the use of technology is allowing the group to forensically monitor suppliers and their financial records.
“Over the course of the next 12 months we are transitioning all of our suppliers to the Fast Forward forensic auditing model, widely recognised as the leading auditing model in the UK. We continue to work closely with local authorities such as the GLAA, as well as anti-slavery charity Hope for Justice.”
However, Hope of Justice’s Paul McAnulty said he believes the audit and enforcement approach was not working.
He said: “We know from speaking to people here who are reliant upon the food bank, who aren’t being paid a fair wage, that there are methods in place where they have to pay that money back to the employer, where they’ve been given multiple workers cards so that not all their hours appear on their payslips,” he said.
“So we know that the audit approach, the enforcement approach, it hasn’t really given us any results in identifying evidence of slavery because factory owners are getting really creative and innovative in how they deal with that and how they hide it.”