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M&S asked Oxfam to identify human rights and worker wellbeing issues in their supply chains as part of a collaborative research project. Oxfam interviewed 390 workers across food manufacturing sites in the UK and footwear factories in India over a six-month period. The investigation focused on gender equality, worker voice and in-work poverty.

The research revealed a range of concerns among workers, as well as examples of good practice on which the company can build. The nature of a deep-dive qualitative study and the need to protect workers’ anonymity mean that the findings are based on workers’ testimony and are not necessarily generalizable across or beyond the sites where the interviews were held. Nonetheless, the interviews provided valuable insights into the perspectives of a large sample of workers and managers in M&S supply chains, with important and consistent themes emerging: 

•    a lack of effective worker voice; 
•    concerns about speaking out; 
•    inadequate sick pay; 
•    the need for more transparent or fairer job progression processes; and 
•    difficulty in meeting living costs in some instances.

M&S has reflected on the research findings and demonstrated a commitment to continuously improving and adopting good supply chain standards. They have shown an interest in driving wider sectoral change.

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