Workers at UK retailers’ warehouses face a three-strike policy where a strike can be given for as little as smiling, while others are searched repeatedly when going to the toilet, an undercover report has claimed.
Channel 4 documentary series Dispatches spoke to Keiron Hardman, who worked at Boohoo’s Burnley warehouse for two years through agency Tailored Recruitment Services (TRS) and worked his way up to becoming team leader.
“In one particular instance I received an email to ask me if I could give somebody a strike because somebody was actually smiling,” he said.
He was told workers can be docked 15 minutes of pay if they are one minute late, which effectively means they can be paid less than the minimum wage.
Boohoo said in a statement to the programme that all employees, including those employed through an agency, are paid at least the minimum wage. The company has not yet responded to Drapers’ request for comment.
Hardman said workers were under great pressure to perform and suffering from stress, although Boohoo told Dispatches that “employees often get a buzz from smashing records” and that the “average distance covered by an employee is seven and a half miles”.
“It’s relentless,” Hardman said. “If somebody stops working for five or 10 minutes it will come up on the system… We can track everything that person is doing. Where he is in the warehouse and whether he’s hitting target or not.”
TRS told the programme it has not been made aware of any workers suffering from stress and it would take appropriate actions if they were. Drapers has been unable to contact TRS today.
At Asos’s warehouse in Barnsley, an undercover reporter was searched 20% of the times he passed through a barrier to leave and 40% of the times he went to the toilet. Workers are not paid for queuing for a security search or to clock out.
Asos said it only checks around 2% of people at the warehouse and a warehouse operator told the programme that employees stop working five minutes before their shift ends “allowing for paid time to exit”.
The claims come as it emerged that at least 140 people have been taken to hospital after incidents at JD Sports’s warehouse in Rochdale in the last four years.
Ambulances have been dispatched to the site 166 times in the last four years, according to a Freedom of Information request submitted by The Guardian.
Around 1,500 people work at the warehouse, which equates to almost one in 10 workers going to hospital in the last four years.
The number of ambulances dispatched was 21 in 2013, 60 in 2014, 44 in 2015, and 41 in 2016.
A spokeswoman for JD Sports said the firm is very proud of health and safety at the Kingsway facility. The site received four star (“very good”) accreditation for Occupational Health and Safety from the British Safety Council in May 2016.
“There are up to 1,500 employees on site daily and the number of incidents where an ambulance is called in a year is, therefore, proportionally very low,” she said, adding that not all ambulance call-outs relate to workplace incidents.
The firm employs a full-time health and safety manager and has 60 first aiders on site, which she pointed out is almost double the recommended number of 32. Employees are given a full health and safety briefing on their first day, which is updated regularly, while line managers have enhanced training.
“Our health and safety committee monitors all reported accidents and incidents and takes appropriate, preventative action to try to avoid any reoccurrence,” she added.
Dispatches is set to air this evening at 8pm on Channel 4.