PRITI PATEL has urged Boohoo to “ensure that workers are protected and remediated” as the fashion retailer promised action on reports of “labour exploitation” in its supply chains.
The home secretary, according to the Times, asked the brand to “step up and take responsibility” for its suppliers, which had been accused last month of practising modern-day slavery, paying workers as little as £3.5 per hour despite the minimum wage for people aged 25 being set at £8.72 as per law.
“I am concerned that your response to recent reports of labour exploitation in your supply chains appears to be focused on terminating contracts with suppliers found to have breached your code of conduct, rather than on protecting vulnerable workers,” Patel said in a letter to Boohoo chief executive John Lyttle.
“I would expect Boohoo to work with its suppliers to ensure that workers are protected and remediated.”
She also stressed that the company should “increase public transparency” regarding supply chains as part of its measures “regain public trust”.
“Many fashion brands have published the names, addresses and ‘supply chain role’ of their direct suppliers to enable effective public scrutiny of their supply chains,” Patel noted.
Boohoo shares had taken a bad hit – “£1bn wiped off its value” — after media reports and charities highlighted worker exploitation in its supply chain, with focus on Leicester.
The company said it was “horrified” over the allegations, and had launched an independent review of its UK supply chain.
It wanted Patel to launch “a licensing scheme” to ensure textile factories were “fit to trade”.
The home secretary — who had termed Leicester sweatshops a “modern-day scourge” and ordered a National Crime Agency probe — said she would take the most “appropriate measures”.
“Given the serious nature of the allegations in Leicester and the spectrum of issues and concerns, it is imperative that we have a strong evidence base to inform the options we are considering to protect vulnerable workers and drive up standards,” she said.
Patel underscored that companies such as Boohoo should “play their part” in tackling modern slavery.
Boohoo, in response, said: “The Boohoo group has updated the home secretary and others on the steps we have taken following reports of malpractice in the Leicester garment industry. These steps include commissioning a comprehensive independent review of our UK supply chain.
“We welcome the comprehensive response from the home secretary and the recognition of how seriously we are treating the allegations and we look forward to sitting down with the home secretary following completion of the independent review to discuss how government and industry can act together to ensure that Made in Britain is a label of pride for all.”