Online clothing retailer Boohoo has defended its business practices against accusations that it was putting workers at factories in Leicester at risk of contracting coronavirus.
The allegations made by worker’s rights group Labour Behind the Label come after the East Midlands city was placed under lockdown earlier this week.
The group said that workers were “being forced to come into work while sick with Covid-19”, and that it had received reports of factories working “illegally” throughout lockdown and that some employees had been denied pay when forced to isolate.
However, in a response posted to its website, Boohoo said that it “categorically does not tolerate any incidence of non-compliance especially in relation to the treatment of workers” within its supply chain and it has “terminated relationships with suppliers where evidence of non-compliance with our strict code of conduct is found”.
Boohoo said: “It may surprise people to know that we applaud any examination of practices in supply chains, because we share similar aims: that everyone employed is fairly treated and properly remunerated for the work that they do. However, for any work of this nature to have credibility and to be of value it needs to be accurate and factually correct, which the Labour Behind the Label report unfortunately, is not.”
It added that since the onset of the coronavirus, it has “significantly changed” how it operates its business to ensure that it “closely followed and adhered” to all aspects of the guidance provided by Government.
“At no point has this guidance required any on-line business or factory to close. It is therefore wrong to suggest that we were flouting the rules by continuing to trade before the 22nd April,” it said.
It also revealed that during the first few weeks of lockdown, where guidance meant that it was unable to complete onsite compliance visits, buyers, in-house compliance team, senior team and its CEO were in “constant contact” with suppliers using video and audio calls and “constant reiteration of expectations” on social distancing and hygiene measures.
The fashion group said the brands would be a “complementary” addition to its current portfolio, and it would work to integrate them onto its platform in the coming months.
In its latest trading update, Boohoo also confirmed its purchase of the remaining 34% minority interest in prettylittlething.com. It added it expects the acquisition to be “significantly earnings enhancing” for the group.
Both acquisitions came as the fashion giant reported “very strong” trading throughout its first quarter, despite the ongoing global pandemic.