Findings of excessive overtime at two garment factories in India have prompted clothing retailers Gap, Next and Marks & Spencer (M&S) to launch investigations in the country.

According to a weekend report by The Observer newspaper, two Indian factories - one used by Gap and Next and the other by M&S - were found to be using excessive overtime practices to meet demand.

Clothing factory House of Pearl, which produces clothing for Gap and Next, has reportedly pledged to apologise and reinstate anyone who lost their job for refusing to work extra hours. The company could not be reached for comment this afternoon (9 August).

A spokesperson for Next told just-style that it was already investigating alleged "abusive practices" at the Pearl factory.

He said: "As part of this enquiry, one of our investigators had met with workers in their own homes and directly discovered very serious breaches of Next’s Code of Conduct. It goes without saying we were extremely concerned about this situation and are working actively with the supplier’s management to improve conditions at Pearl.

"Next will try to avoid withdrawing from the Pearl factory, as it would result in workers losing their livelihood. If matters cannot be improved rapidly, however, we will have no alternative but to cease using this factory altogether."

Another factory, Viva Global, which supplies M&S, was found to be using excessive overtime earlier this year, but the company says this has since been stopped. M&S, which uses 92 textile factories in India, said it has been working closely with Viva since its findings, in April.

"Since we’ve been on the ground from April, we are confident that the issues on overtime have been solved and the outstanding issues on working conditions are being addressed," the spokesperson added.

Gap's senior vice president of global responsibility, Dan Henkle, told just-style last night: "We take very seriously any issue that affects the working conditions and lives of workers in the factories that make our clothes.

"While we appreciate the reporter contacting us about these issues, we were well aware of the issue beforehand, and have been taking swift action to ensure these vendor factories adhere to our strict standards.

"In late June and mid-July, our team uncovered that two of our contracted Pearl facilities had violations around excessive overtime and unpaid overtime wage payments. Our team on the ground acted swiftly, engaging with the Pearl factory management to address the situation.

"The vendor agreed to pay all identified outstanding overtime wages at the legal rate and include all of back payment in the next pay cycle; reduce working hours to legal limits; and alleviate overburdened capacity by subcontracting extra work to an approved vendor in the region."