Boohoo was hit with a fresh worker scandal today, with claims that staff at the fast fashion giant’s warehouse in Lancashire were forced to work in temperatures of up to 32C on 12-hour shifts where they are expected to collect 130 items per hour.
The British company, which is known for its £3 shirts and £4 dresses and enjoys revenue of almost £2bn a year, has sought to promote its ethical credentials two years after it emerged that employees of some of his suppliers in Leicester were paid as little as £3.50 an hour.
But an undercover newspaper reporter has now made a series of disturbing claims about conditions at his warehouse in Burnley, with staff labeling themselves “slaves”, complaining of racism, sexual harassment and strenuous targets.
A new report has made a number of disturbing claims about conditions at Boohoo’s Burnley warehouse. The photo is an advertising photo
Three-quarters of the 59 calls to Boohoo’s Burnley warehouse in the last five years brought the patient to hospital.
Boohoo said its figures showed pickers walked an average of 7.8 miles per shift in August 2022, though the paper said its reporter recorded substantially more progress.
Three-quarters of the 59 calls in the last five years brought the patient to the hospital, and four people fell unconscious, passed out, or felt like they were about to pass out in the last financial year alone.
Boohoo said it was taking “all the claims very seriously” but “does not believe the painted image reflects the working environment” in the warehouse.
The undercover reporter spent a month as a collector at the Burnley warehouse in August and September.
Staff are paid £11 an hour for shifts of up to 12 hours and the role involves collecting items from many miles of racks in the direction of a tracking device strapped to the worker’s wrist.
After a training period, staff are expected to reach a goal of 130 items per hour, more than two per minute, though some may be several aisles away.
Non-compliance may result in being disciplined by a manager and may ultimately lead to termination.
After a hot day earlier this year, a temperature of 32°C was recorded inside the warehouse one night, when the outside temperature was around 19°C.
While there is no legal upper limit for workplace temperature, the GMB union is campaigning for it to be set at 25°C, while a former Boohoo staff member who worked in the warehouse control room said that the heat made the work “unbearable”.
In an exchange reported by The Times, a manager briefing night shift workers said: “I’m standing here not moving and I’m already drenched in sweat.”
He was challenged by an employee who said, ‘Then give us extra breaks.’
‘No, there are no extra breaks,’ said the manager. ‘I get it, it’s hot. But we still have to act.
Some staff members complained that their bathroom breaks were timed. Boohoo said it was standard practice for employers to monitor breaks, but denied scheduling bathroom visits.
Boohoo group co-founder Mahmud Kamani at an industry event
Graffiti painted by a worker on the floor of the warehouse described it as a “prison”, while in another corridor “slaves” have been scrawled on the shelves.
The reporter was told he could take one or two bathroom breaks during a 12-hour shift.
The Burnley warehouse has also been hit by allegations of racism, with a Pakistani man who had worked at the warehouse for 18 months telling the undercover reporter that he had seen a white constable send Pakistani workers into the hottest parts of the warehouse. , while the white Bulgarians were preserved in the coolest part.
Another disturbing allegation concerns a staff member who claimed that a colleague had sexually assaulted her in a corner of the warehouse.
After the assault, she told her floor manager, but he allegedly did not inform people higher up in the hierarchy. She later told another manager that he allegedly accused her of lying.
Later, the perpetrator is said to have admitted what had happened when he was later questioned and fired. Boohoo said that he had dealt with the incident in accordance with his “robust” procedures.
In March last year, Boohoo dumped more than 400 vendors following allegations that they paid staff below the minimum wage.
The company saw more than £1bn of its share value wiped in two days after a 2020 article exposed conditions at garment factories in Leicester.
Other retailers such as Next and Asos have removed Boohoo clothing from their websites, and the company has retained attorney Alison Levitt KC to investigate the allegations.
In September 2020, Ms Levitt discovered that there were “serious problems” in the company’s supply chain.
Boohoo has tried to promote its ethical credentials two years after it emerged that employees at some of its suppliers in Leicester were being paid as little as £3.50 an hour.
The company drew further negative headlines in 2020 when 25 people were infected with Covid at its warehouse in Sheffield amid claims the conditions made it a “breeding ground” for the disease.
A video posted to social media on March 26 showed employees standing close together in high-visibility jackets in the warehouse, in an apparent violation of social distancing rules.
Today, Justin Madders, Labor’s shadow minister for labor rights and protections, described the latest claims about his Burnley warehouse as “shocking”.
“The government has repeatedly failed to deliver on its promised jobs bill to address conditions in warehouses that function as Victorian workhouses,” he said.
But Boohoo responded, saying in a statement: “Boohoo is taking each claim very seriously, but does not believe the painted image reflects the working environment in our Burnley warehouse.”
‘In recent years we have invited and subsequently hosted representatives from external organisations, authorities and individuals such as the GLAA, local MPs, the local council deputy leader and Burnley College, and we remain committed to transparency and engagement.
‘Making sure our people are safe and comfortable in their workplace is our top priority. That’s why more and more of our colleagues are choosing to stay here longer, and our turnover rate continues to drop year after year.
We offer generous pay rates, well above the national living wage, with additional benefits including subsidized private health care. Through our employee engagement programme, our colleagues tell us that they are happy with their work environment, feel valued and heard.’