Asos, Missguided and more urge government to end labour exploitation in supply chain

Online players Asos, Missguided, N Brown, and The Very Group are among the signatories on a letter to home secretary, Priti Patel, calling for the government to provide greater protection for garment factory workers.

Some 40 retailers, investors and NGOs have joined more than 50 cross-party MPs and peers writing to the home secretary calling for greater protection in the apparel supply chain.

The letter, which is also signed by George at Asda, Joules, Marks & Spencer, Matalan, Morrisons, Mountain Warehouse, New Look, Next, and River Island, calls for the introduction of a licensing scheme for garment factories.

It comes after fast fashion retailers Boohoo and Quiz were prompted to start investigations into their supply chain operations after allegations made against them of malpractice in factories where their clothing is produced – specifically sites in Leicester.

The joint letter, coordinated by trade group the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and distributed today (20 July), calls for licensing that would ensure factories meet legal obligations to employees and follow ‘Fit to Trade’ criteria.

A ‘Fit to Trade’ licensing scheme is similar to the existing GLAA Licence needed for food production. The scheme ensures that businesses who supply workers, and businesses who need workers, meet the employment standards that are required by law.

The BRC said this scheme would protect workers from forced labour, debt bondage and mistreatment, as well as ensure payment of National Minimum Wage, VAT, PAYE, National Insurance, holiday pay and health and safety.

It would also act as a deterrent to rogue businesses from undercutting compliant manufacturers.

Helen Dickinson, CEO of the BRC, said: "The BRC has repeatedly called on government?to take action to?prevent labour exploitation in the UK.

“Recent reports in the media demonstrate the urgent need for action before more workers are needlessly taken advantage of. While there is no silver bullet, licensing is a critical step toward resolving this issue.”

Dr Lisa Cameron MP, and chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Textiles & Fashion, added: “As we emerge from the coronavirus crisis, we have a huge opportunity to make the UK a world-leading, ethical fashion and textile manufacturing industry, delivering better, highly-skilled?jobs.

“It is crucial the home secretary seriously considers the urgent need to implement statutory licensing of garment factory owners and managers to ensure they are ‘Fit to Trade’.”