Missy Empire and Parent Company facing serious labour abuse allegations

Missy Empire and Parent Company facing serious labour abuse allegations

Missy Empire, a fast-fashion brand based in Manchester, markets itself as a company that empowers women through its products and branding. This vision is encapsulated in their brand statement; appealing to the “go-getters, the goal-setters, the kick-ass females who F with convention and create their own kind of pretty”. However, a recent investigate report from The Guardian unveils a stark contrast between their brand image and the actual treatment of employees, spotlighting significant human rights concerns within the workplace. 


Established in 2015 by Ash and Ish Siddique, Missy Empire was envisioned as an advocate for ambitious, non-conformist women. However, allegations from former employees paint a different picture. 


Reports illustrate high employee turn over, with significant emotional impact on young women in entry-level positions. Instances of workplace bullying, demanding remarks, and unjust practices have surfaced, casting a shadow on the brand with clear questions about their infringement on human rights and the ethical treatment of staff. 


Allegations include statements about the required appearance of women and direct comments on their bodies.  The Director, Ash Siddique, was accused of various highly inappropriate comments, as detailed in the report: 


“He was adamant that all the women had to have sex appeal … He would openly call women fat or skinny. He was very vocal.” 


Since it’s acquisition by Frasers Group in 2021, Missy Empire’s internal issues reflect a broad, systematic problem in the UK’s fast-fashion industry. Renowned names like ASOS, Boohoo, PrettyLittleThing, and JD Sports have similarly been scrutinised for failing to uphold basic human rights standards in their treatment of employees and use of garment workers. 


JD Sports and Frasers Group, part of the FTSE 100 index, have similarly been subjects of scrutiny for their employee treatment. Investigations into JD Sports and Frasers Group (formerly Sports Direct) revealed inhumane working conditions in their warehouses, marked by excessive surveillance and exploitation of zero-hour contracts, as well as, employees being paid below minimum wage. 


Further to this, Frasers Group are currently under serious criticism for their non-response to allegations of abuse in Myanmar garment factories. With labour rights violations and safety violations, these revelations indicate a systematic disregard for fundamental human rights, including the right to fair labour conditions and freedom from harassment and abuse. 


Despite numerous complaints made to the HR department of parent companies, JD Sports and Frasers Group, there has been a clear lack of accountability and concrete action. The distressing accounts of verbal abuse and denied leave, as reported by former Missy Empire employees, highlight severe infringement of human rights within the company. 


A former employee revealed: 

“In the conversation I was called a f***cking idiot many times, mocked, and told I’m not f***cking needed, so I should feel free to walk out the door. Ash also said I am not allowed my holiday as he can decide when I do, and he doesn’t feel like giving me it, and if I would like to take holiday I can if I take it unpaid.”


In response, a JD Group spokesperson, looked to distance the company from the allegations, suggesting that it was the majority stakeholder for only 18 months, but Missy Empire was “responsible for the day-to-day running of the business, including its own HR procedure.” 


To ensure a workplace reflective of it’s advertised ethos, it is imperative for Missy Empire and parent companies to adopt a series of actionable measures with the well-being of its employees at its core. 


Firstly, this includes the establishment of a comprehensive human rights policy that aligns all business operations with international standards. Implementing effective grievance mechanisms at Group level is crucial, allowing employees to report any abuses confidentially and without fear of retribution. 


Regular assessments should be implemented as a norm, aimed at identifying and mitigating any adverse effects on employee rights within the companies and ensuring their ongoing compliance with existing regulations. 


Additionally, training and awareness programs centred on fundamental employee well-being principles, and their rights, can foster a culture of respect and empathy. It is essential for business leaders, especially the owners of Missy Empire, to exemplify the very values they use for advertisement. Demonstrating a commitment to these principles through their actions and leadership is vital, aligning the company’s internal practices with its external messages. 


Transparent reporting and accountability mechanisms must be put in place to ensure public awareness and internal checks on the handling of employee grievances, and to ensure that  businesses are being held accountable for any discrepancies. Collaborating with unions and human rights organisations can provide valuable insights and guidance. This would also surely illustrate a clear commitment to improving internal issues, maintain and improve working conditions, and ensure that employee’s rights are not violated any further. 


By integrating these measures, Frasers Group, and, in turn, Missy Empire can evolve into a brand that not only talks about empowerment but also actively embodies these principles through its commitment to upholding the human rights and dignity of its employees. 


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