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NCA confirms probe into Boohoo working conditions

The National Crime Agency has confirmed it is investigating fashion retailer Boohoo following allegations of poor working conditions in a Leicester warehouse. 

An NCA spokesman told Retail Sector: “Within the last few days NCA officers, along with Leicestershire Police and other partner agencies, attended a number of business premises in the Leicester area to assess concerns of modern slavery and human trafficking.

“Tackling modern slavery is one of our highest priorities, and we are committed to working with partners across law enforcement, the private, public and charity sector to pursue offenders and protect victims.”

News of the probe comes hours after Boohoo responded to allegations of slavery after a Sunday Times exposé highlighted the conditions at supplier Jaswal Fashions in a recent undercover report.

Only last week, the fashion retailer 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 arose after the East Midlands city was placed under lockdown last 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.

While Boohoo “categorically” denied the claims, a report released by The Sunday Times last weekend (5 July) found evidence of workers in Leicester making Boohoo clothes for £3.50 an hour, less than half the £8.72 minimum wage. 

An undercover reporter at the paper also filmed himself packing clothes with Nasty Gal labels at the Jaswal Fashions factory, noting that the site was open during the local lockdown with “no additional hygiene or social distancing measures in place”.

In response to the report, Boohoo has today (6 July) said that the conditions observed were “totally unacceptable and fall woefully short of any standards acceptable in any workplace”.

According to the retailer, Jaswal Fashions was not a declared supplier for the brand, however, and is no longer trading as a garment manufacturer.

Boohoo now believes that a different company is using Jaswal’s former premises, and it is “currently trying to establish the identity of this company”.

The group is now “taking immediate action” to investigate how its garments were in the hands of the culpable company, and will “urgently review” its relationship with any suppliers who have subcontracted work to the manufacturer in question.

Retail Sector has contacted Boohoo for comment.

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