A row has erupted over the alleged exploitation of Indian workers making clothes for some of the UK's leading high street retailers including Gap, H&M, Marks & Spencer, Matalan, Mothercare and Primark.

An article in the Guardian newspaper earlier this week reported that workers were being paid as little as 13 pence (26 cents) an hour and could work up to 48-hours a week. Some workers were forced to work excessive overtime the paper said.

One of the suppliers named in the article was Gokaldas Export, India's largest ready-made garment exporter, which admitted that it paid workers GBP1.13 for a nine-hour day.

But another exporter, Texport Overseas, denied workers were forced to carry out overtime or that they were under pressure to meet targets.

However, employees told the Guardian their wages barely covered their living expenses, leaving them in debt and relying on government food handouts after unexpected bills. Many of them said they were under "intolerable" pressure.

Gap acknowledged there were "problems", and Marks & Spencer and Matalan said workers in factories they used were paid the minimum wage.

A spokesperson for Mothercare told just-style that the retailer doesn't use either of the two factories referred to in the report and also has "no relationship with Texport Overseas."

But she said the company sources from two of Gokaldas Export's 52 sites "which produce a limited number of lines for our Indian franchisee partner." Following the Guardian's allegations "we will be re-auditing those two factories immediately, although we don't expect to find any issues because they've passed all previous audits."

Mothercare said it insists all suppliers comply with its own ethical sourcing policy and code of conduct, which conforms fully with the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI). It carries out internal audits of the sites it uses, as well as external independent audits.

"With the two Gokaldas Export factories that we use, both have been audited independently and by our internal teams, and both of them have passed all the audits in line with ETI standards," the spokesperson said. "And that means they pay a living wage rather than a minimum wage."

The latest newspaper claims follow a similar report from the Guardian in July accusing British supermarket groups Tesco and Asda of failing to ensure the proper treatment of factory workers in Bangladesh.

Gap Inc is one of the few companies that has openly discussed the challenges it faces in managing its overseas factories.

According to its latest Social Responsibility report, the retailer admitted that overwhelming factories with last-minute orders or changes to production plans can lead to vastly increased overtime for workers.

It also pointed out that more factories in India fell into the Level 1 category of "urgent attention required" than before. It believes this is due, in part, "to the fact that the region experienced a sudden increase in production and suppliers did not have the capacity to handle the increased workload."