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Worker mistreatment at Sports Direct

A report compiled by the Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee has concluded that staff at Sports Direct were ‘not treated as humans’. The report also stated that Mike Ashley, founder and majority shareholder must be accountable for the poor working conditions and practices within its shops and at its warehouse in Shirebrook, Derbyshire.

Chair of the Committee, Iain Wright MP, noted: “The evidence we heard points to a business whose working practices are closer to that of a Victorian workhouse than that of a modern, reputable High Street retailer. For this to occur in the UK in 2016 is a serious indictment of the management at Sports Direct and Mike Ashley, as the face of Sports Direct, must be held accountable for these failings.”

The 37 page report also described the company’s working practices as a disturbing picture. This was based on information provided by witnesses including evidence suggesting that staff had been made to clock out so wages weren’t over budget yet were made to carry-on working. Similarly, a witness stated that staff on zero-hour contracts were being forced to work a further three hours without pay. If they refused, they were not offered any hours the following day.

Other evidence pointed to numerous health and safety breaches with over 100 ambulances or paramedic cars being dispatched to the Shirebrook warehouse’s postcode between January 2013 and April 2016. Fifty of these cases were classified as “life-threatening”, whilst one woman even gave birth in the warehouse toilet.

Mike Ashley was questioned in June 2016 by a Government Select Committee, about his firm’s treatment of staff. Ashley had claimed that he was unaware of the practices but admitted his company had broken the law by not paying the national minimum wage to his staff. Sports Direct currently remain under investigation by HMRC for failure to pay workers the national minimum wage.