Sports Direct to offer staff guaranteed hours after review

Sports Direct has said it will make changes to working practices after a critical review.

The company has said it will offer directly employed casual retail staff at least 12 guaranteed hours a week, instead of zero-hour contracts.

However, almost all staff at the firm’s Shirebrook warehouse, are agency workers and are not eligible.

The company’s board has requested the suspension of a “six strikes” policy at the warehouse, which penalised workers for minor infringements and left them fearful for their jobs.
The report said the practice was “potentially oppressive”.

Sports Direct promised to investigate its working practices after the Guardian’s undercover reports of conditions inside its warehouses.

The subsequent report by RPC, a City law firm, found “serious shortcomings” at the company’s Shirebrook warehouse in Derbyshire.

It said the board “deeply regrets and apologises for” the problems, which had been likened to a Victorian workhouse.

Last year an investigation by the Guardian newspaper revealed that the firm’s staff were subject to lengthy security searches which, in some cases, resulted in their pay falling below the legal minimum wage.
And a BBC investigation found ambulances were called out to Sports Direct’s complex at Shirebrook, in Derbyshire, 76 times in two years.

In today’s report, which comes a day ahead of the company’s annual shareholder meeting, the firm said its failure to pay some staff at its Shirebrook warehouse the minimum wage was “unacceptable but unintentional”, but said it had a new pay policy in place.

It also said it would suspend its “six strike system” for misdemeanours under which staff were given “a strike” for spending too long in the toilet, excessive chatting or taking a day off sick.

Once an employee had six strikes they were automatically dismissed.

The report said Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley “takes ultimate responsibility for any aspects of the working practices that were unsatisfactory”.

Shareholders have called on the firm’s billionaire founder to improve both corporate governance and working practices at the company.

The firm said it had already commissioned a second review of working practices to monitor progress.

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