Sports Direct

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...reforming work practices

After being exposed for underpaying and mistreating workers, Sports Direct has now confirmed that casual retail staff will be guaranteed at least 12 working hours a week – instead of being given zero-hour contracts.

It has also been made public that the discount sportswear chain has controversially not extended this offer to the 4,000+ agency workers employed at its warehouse in Shirebrook, Derbyshire.

Is It Too Late To Say Sorry?

This is the latest development in what has been a shocking – and revealing – year for the clothing chain, as it has come under fire from the government and press regarding its pay practices and treatment of workers.

Following a review authorised by Sports Direct, which found “serious shortcomings” in working practices, staff working at the warehouse have been offered an apology for its questionable working conditions – which have been likened to those of a Victorian workhouse.

The company’s tough ‘six strikes’ policy – which its board has now described as “potentially oppressive” – has also been suspended. Under this policy, workers who committed specific acts – such as excessively chatting with others and taking long toilet breaks – were given a strike for every ‘offence’ committed.

Once they received 6 strikes, they were dismissed automatically.

Making Amends

Following the review, Sports Direct has promised to implement the following changes:

  • Employing a full-time nurse and welfare officer at the Shirebrook warehouse, as it had previously had a high number of ambulance callouts
  • A confidential system for employees to report instances of sexual harassment
  • A lower number of searches of warehouse staff, and a reduced selection of brands that staff were banned from wearing
  • A test scheme that would transfer 10 agency staff a month to Sports Direct is also being considered
  • A policy in relation to the appropriate use of a tannoy

The review also revealed that Mike Ashley, the founder of the business, is taking full responsibility for the “unsatisfactory” working practices. Shareholders have strongly urged Ashley to make improvements to the company’s corporate governance.

Sports Direct has confirmed that a further review will be carried out before next year’s AGM.

Zee comments:

“Sports Direct has been under immense pressure this year to reform working practices and the way in which its staff are treated. This development is certainly a step in the right direction, but the business has a long way to go to reclaim its employees’ lost trust and confidence.”

“The decision to remove zero-hours contracts and instead guarentee hours for shop staff is likely to have a positive effect on the company’s  staff retention, flowing from the sense of job security these employees will now enjoy.”

“Whilst the use of zero-hour contracts can be beneficial, to both parties, for certain working arrangments, employers must excerscise care and appropriate use. Employers have a duty to ensure working arrangments, contractual arrangements with employees, and company procedures create a fair, safe working environment. With the right legal guidance and support, Sports Direct will hopefully learn from its mistakes.”

Written by Zee Hussain.

For more information on employment law and the services offered by Simpson Millar, please call:

0808 129 3304

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