The UK fashion industry is being targeted by the Government crackdown

The UK fashion industry is being targeted by the Government crackdown

The UK Government is to crack down on exploitation in the supply chains of large firms, with fashion retail one of the main industries being targeted.

As part of a review being carried out by Sir David Metcalf, Director of Labour Market Enforcement, the government says it will jail the worst offenders as it looks to tackle illegal practices through the use of new enforcement orders that came into effect in November 2016 and carry a maximum two-year prison sentence for serious or repeat offences.

The investigation will also identify how best to ensure large employers' supply chains do not breach labour market laws, particularly in the fashion, construction and cleaning sectors, and review the effectiveness of current labour market enforcement efforts.

"Over the coming months I will be working with government enforcement agencies and industry bodies to better identify and punish the most serious and repeat offenders taking advantage of vulnerable workers and honest businesses," says Sir David.

Enforcement statistics released today (25 July) show the government identified record back pay for workers, with almost GBP11m for 98,000 workers in 2016 to 2017.

The figures are published alongside this year's National Minimum and Living Wage enforcement statistics, which show for the same period, enforcement teams identified GBP10.9m in back pay for 98,150 of the UK's lowest paid workers – a 69% increase on those helped last year.

Businesses who failed to pay workers at least the legal minimum wage were also fined GBP3.9m.

"This government is firmly on the side of hard-working people and we are determined to stamp out any workplace exploitation, from minimum wage abuses to modern slavery," adds Business Minister Margot James.

"While the majority of employers create a fair and safe environment for their workers, there are a small minority of rogue employers who break the law and we will use all enforcement measures at our disposal to crack down on labour market abuses."

Earlier this year, the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) advised retailers sourcing garments from the UK city of Leicester to impose significant sanctions against those factories that breach contracts.

A Channel Four Dispatches TV programme, which aired on 23 January, found suppliers in Leicester producing for high street brands including River Island and New Look paying workers between GBP3 (US$3.74) and GBP3.50 (US$4.36) per hour. The UK's national living wage, the legal minimum, currently stands at GBP7.50 per hour for workers aged 25 and over.

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