At Primark we are committed to supporting the livelihoods of the people who make our clothes. Without them we wouldn’t be where we are today, and we take our responsibilities to them very seriously. Here’s how we’re using the power of our business to do just that…
We work with suppliers, factories and the farmers within our Primark Sustainable Cotton Programme (PSCP) around the world to create the products our customers love. Every time we take on a new Primark supplier they must commit to meeting the internationally recognised standards set out in our Supplier Code of Conduct. We work closely with our suppliers and their factories and we always return at least once a year to make sure our standards are being maintained. In fact, our team on the ground carry out around 2,500 inspections every year to ensure workers’ hours, wages and rights are protected.
We have been investing in training programmes for many years to support both factory workers and our PSCP farmers. These programmes are aimed at giving people both the opportunity to develop their workplace skills, as well as focusing on their physical and mental health and wellbeing. Read on to learn more…
We employ 130 local people in our Ethical Trade and Environmental Sustainability team. Between them they visit every factory we work with at least once a year to conduct face-to-face audits, while also delivering training for factory staff and workers.
India Worker Empowerment Programme
The India Worker Empowerment Programme (IWEP) started out in South India as a suite of projects designed to address the needs of vulnerable garment workers, particularly female and migrant workers in and around Tirupur. It launched with My Life in 2017 and has been growing ever since. It now consists of My Space, My Journey and PASS, which have evolved to address the needs of workers across a breadth of topics.
My Life, India
In 2017, in partnership with the international NGO Women Win and Naz Foundation, we launched My Life to build life skills among vulnerable workers in India, with a focus on hostel residents and women. The programme supports factories to train vulnerable workers on basic life skills including health and safety in the workplace, rights and responsibilities, communication, and teamwork. The training also covers improving participants’ understanding of employment documents and wage slips, as part of our commitment to strengthen the financial literacy of people in our supply chain.
There are 600 million internal migrants in India who typically move great distances across the country in search of seasonal or temporary work and many of our supplier factories are concentrated in these areas. As a result, migrant workers can be some of the most vulnerable in our supply chain.
Training is delivered through a play-based approach, which uses interactive activities such as games to help workers engage and learn. It is now offered in four languages and trainers have also introduced Google’s ‘Text to Speech’ feature so workers can listen to and understand contracts that aren’t written in their native language.
This year, we conducted an independent impact assessment of My Life, discussing the programme with 500 factory workers who have completed the training across 8 factories in Tamil Nadu, India. While research is ongoing, the preliminary findings are promising:
3 in 5 workers report significant improvements in their communication skills because of the My Life training.
3 in 5 workers also report experiencing significant improvements in their personal and menstrual health and hygiene because of the My Life training.
Two thirds of workers ‘strongly agree’ that they have a better understanding of their rights and responsibilities at work after the My Life training.
As of July 2023, My Life India has helped vulnerable workers understand more about their rights in seven factories, representing over 4,000 workers.
My Space, India
My Space, is implemented in partnership with St John’s Medical College. It was set up to provide practical support to workers’ mental health. The project includes raising awareness of and reducing the stigma around addressing mental health issues in the workplace. The project establishes basic counselling services in factories by the training of selected factory staff by medical professionals from St Johns and engaging with workers and managers to reduce the stigma around talking about mental health. We regularly follow up with the local teams to monitor and discuss progress. Numerous workers have been supported across a variety of problems.
In 2020 we introduced a training module for the workplace counsellors on sexual harassment. Factories are subsequently encouraged to appoint these trained counsellors to their Internal Complaints Committees – the formal mechanism that addresses cases of workplace sexual harassment in India.
During the Covid-19 pandemic factory counsellors, management and HR staff continued to use My Space networks to support workers in their communities. They helped to raise awareness about COVID-19 precautionary measures and offered general mental health support.
Promoting Access to Social Security (PASS), India
Started in 2019 the PASS programme provides education and practical support to help Indian garment workers in and around Tirupur to access the government support that they are entitled to in terms of the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) and Employees State Insurance (ESI) health scheme. Community organisers train peer volunteers in the local community, who then help workers enrol and take advantage of the schemes.
The project has been successful in helping workers access their social security benefits. It helped one worker apply to the Employee State Insurance scheme for health treatment following a workplace injury and supported another to gain access to their ESI and EPF entitlements, which had been held up by administrative errors. Community organisers also collate information to assist SAVE’s advocacy efforts with government and other key stakeholders. PASS builds on our previous Worker Education Groups programme with SAVE which started in 2010.
My Life, Myanmar
In 2019, building on the positive experience in south India, we worked with international NGO Women Win and local NGO Girl Determined to bring the My Life project to workers in Myanmar. Both political developments in Myanmar and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic created significant challenges for the roll-out of the project. As a result, the project has been pivoted to support current and former factory workers to understand and help address gender-based violence (GBV) and harassment in their lives and their communities. My Life gave women the chance to learn more about addressing GBV now and in the future. There are plans to engage those who have been training under the project as ‘GBV Facilitators’ to help factories develop effective strategies to better prevent and address GBV.
Bridging the Gap, Myanmar
We worked with Impactt and Women Win, supported by funding from the UK Government’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s Vulnerable Supply Chains Facility, to design and implement this project. The programme addressed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on low income and vulnerable workers in global supply chains. Its aim was to tackle the immediate and long-term challenges of supporting employment, livelihoods and incomes of Myanmar’s ready-made garment sector workers. This innovative programme gave conditional cash transfers to workers, plus factory level training and support for community organisations, to help address gender issues facing working women. Unfortunately, the project closed early due to the impact of events in Myanmar on UK Government funding. But we learnt a lot from this project and the experience was shared at a number of industry-wide events hosted by the Vulnerable Supply Chains Facility.
Sudokkho was a UK and Swiss government-funded project and is an example of how we’re supporting career progression for workers, particularly for women, in our supply chain. Through a structured, in house, technical training system factories are supported to better train new and existing sewing machine operators. The majority of workers trained under this project, many of whom were women, become eligible for promotion and pay rises. This means that workers involved in the programme, most of whom are women, are learning new skills that enhance their earning potential. As of July 2023, the Sudokkho skills development programme has been run in 17 factories. These factories have 29,224 female workers, representing 18% of the female workers in our Bangladesh finished goods supply chain.
Soromik Er Kotha – Worker Voice, Bangladesh
In 2021 in partnership with Microfinance Opportunities, a US-based NGO, and South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (SANEM), their local partner in Bangladesh, we established this project aimed at strengthening workers’ voices through an understanding of their views and experiences in the workplace. The project was modelled on the Garment Worker Diaries project in Bangladesh.
We established a sample of 400 workers across various factories in our supply chain. They were all recruited remotely via community networks and paid for their time on the project. We asked them a set of questions repeatedly over a defined period of time, to allow us to understand their views on health and safety at work, wages and bonuses and retrenchment.
ETI Social Dialogue, Bangladesh
In Bangladesh it’s a legal requirement for factories to have a worker participation committee, but these committees are often not very effective.
The Ethical Trading Initiative’s Social Dialogue programme which started in 2016, strengthens the ability of workers to participle in the committees and helps the factory management to run these committees effectively and in accordance with the law.
The programme trains elected workers and management on key aspects of being a committee member and issues such as understanding labour law, handling grievances, problem solving, formal meeting procedures, effective communication, and sexual harassment.
There is also a course specifically designed for the female committee members. This covers issues such as maternity pay, sexual harassment and wage discrimination, as well as developing soft skills including public speaking and communication. It’s also a chance for women to discuss safety in the workplace and on their daily commute. Many of the women who take part in the training report that it improves their confidence to manage conflicts at work and home.
Promising Futures, China
The Promising Futures programme, implemented by Carnstone for workers in China since 2018, aims to raise awareness and understanding of China’s complex social insurance system among workers and factory management. It also supports them to access social insurance. The project uses WeChat, a social media platform and web-based materials, to raise awareness and share information. Online resources include an educational drama and a website offering information and practical guidance on social insurance across 13 provinces in China that have factories which supply Primark. We’re also funding more website content to provide information on additional provinces in China where social security procedures may differ.
Launched as a pilot in 2018, our China CIQ Worker App is designed to understand human resources practices, improve communication and raise awareness of workers’ rights. The pilot programme resulted in improved transparency of HR practices, better communication between management and workers and enhanced worker awareness of rights. The app also provides a function for workers to raise grievances. To ensure that grievances raised on the app are addressed properly we’re supporting factories to implement appropriate management systems and processes to handle and resolve grievances.
Worker Learning Clubs, China
We helped to set up Worker Learning Clubs in factories to educate workers on OHS (Occupational Health and Safety) issues, core labour rights and life skills. The clubs are led by Worker Champions, who attend a two-day training course to equip them with the skills to run the clubs effectively and raise awareness and knowledge of OHS.
Worker Champions share learning materials through WeChat to support peer learning. Although not a women-specific OSH Project, the developers made extra efforts to incorporate gender equality considerations into the content. It covers specific concerns of female workers regarding gender discrimination, sexual harassment and women’s labour rights protection. Information on OHS and job restrictions for female workers are included in the learning modules.
Better Work, Cambodia, Indonesia & Vietnam
We’re a partner member of the ILO Better Work programme, which operates in key sourcing countries. It conducts monitoring of sites and helps to train management and workers on preventing and addressing sexual harassment for workers, middle managers and supervisors.
Establishing factory-level committees to support communication between managers and workers is central to the Better Work programme. To ensure women’s voices are heard, they’re highly encouraged to join these committees and at least half of the members must be female. A specific project has been developed to help female workers cope in the workplace and develop leadership skills. The programme has also supported women to overcome resistance from family members to join factory committees.
STOP Project, Cambodia & Vietnam
STOP aims to address sexual harassment and gender-based violence in the workplace. The project which started in 2019, delivers support and training to help factories establish and maintain effective workplace mechanisms to prevent and respond to sexual harassment. You can find out more about this project under Gender-Based Violence and Sexual Harassment.