Last reviewed 23 February 2021

Women working in Britain’s garment factories are four times more likely to die from Covid-19 than the average woman worker, according to new analysis published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and reported by the TUC.

The analysis reveals that women sewing machinists have the highest Covid-19 fatality rate (64.8 deaths per 100,000) of any female occupation, much higher than for women working in at-risk sectors such as caring and leisure (27.3 deaths per 100,000).

The TUC has highlighted a report published last summer by action group Labour Behind the Label into workers’ rights violations in Leicester garment factories.

At the same time, the union body points out, the city of Leicester was placed in special measures after huge outbreaks of Covid-19 were discovered at its clothing factories.

Dominique Muller from Labour Behind the Label said: “The failings of the Government approach to labour enforcement and health and safety alongside the failure of brands taking responsibility for the workers has led to a perfect storm of exploitative and dangerous working conditions.”

Investigations revealed that some factories operated throughout the lockdowns with no social distancing measures in place and staff paid below the minimum wage.

TUC Midlands Regional Secretary, Lee Barron, has called for a new approach where unions, retailers and factory management work together to ensure that legal minimums are being applied across the industry.

The Government must use its much-delayed Employment Bill to make firms liable for abuses in their supply chains, he said, pointing to major brands which had not been held responsible for the actions of their suppliers and subcontractors.