Company refutes criticisms of conditions
Ashley to oversee working practices at Sports Direct
Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley is to oversee a review of working conditions at the company which today has issued a firm defence of its employment practices.
This follows a campaign to expose claims made by employees at one of its warehouses.
The company issued a statement refuting many of the allegations and said neither it nor the main agencies which also employ staff on its behalf uses zero hours contracts.
It also denied that agency workers and employees are subjected to ‘naming and shaming’ via publication of a league table identifying individuals by name.
“The Company uses an anonymous ranking system to monitor performance. An individual’s unique number (known only to the employment agencies, the Company and the worker) benchmarks staff against the anonymised data of their peers. Individuals can check their performance, should they wish to do so,” it said in a statement.
“The warehouse tannoy is not used to ‘harangue’ or ‘name and shame’ staff; the tannoy is used for logistical reasons, for example, to redeploy staff to other areas of the building or to let staff know that a truck is waiting for stock to be dispatched.
“Sports Direct does not penalise its staff for being ill. Sanctions may be applied if workers fail to follow the company’s reasonable sickness absence notification procedures, which are in line with industry best practice. The company is not aware of any occasions on which sick children have not been able to be collected from school by their parents. Sports Direct allows staff time off to look after dependants in such circumstances.
“Neither Sports Direct nor the agencies it uses discriminate in favour of or against any applicant or worker on the basis of nationality or for any other reason. Both the company and the agencies with which it works are equal opportunities employers. There are workers of various nationalities, including local British citizens, currently working in the warehouse. Neither the company nor the agencies distinguish between workers of different nationalities; Sports Direct and the agencies value the contribution of all workers equally.”
The statement goes on: “ Sadly, all companies have to be cognisant of theft from warehouse operations. As such, there is a need for some security measures to be in place at Shirebrook. One simple and sensible way of managing this issue is to ensure that workers do not wear the clothing brands stocked in the warehouse. This is not an unusual practice in many retail companies’ warehouse operations. There are of course numerous other brands that staff can easily wear.
“All employees, agency workers and visitors, including executive management and Board members, are subject to random searches on leaving the Shirebrook warehouse. Trained security staff conduct random searches and the company continues to keep the process under review, with the aim of reducing any inconvenience to staff as much as possible.”
On the issue of zero hours contracts, it states: :”Sports Direct is not alone in using ‘zero hour’ contracts. A significant number of retailers use ‘zero hour’ contracts in their shops (as well as other companies, government and local government employers), as all parties appreciate the flexibility provided by these contracts.
“Sports Direct ‘zero hour’ terms of engagement include holiday pay, and sick pay is payable where the relevant criteria for statutory sick pay are met. Sports Direct ‘zero hour’ terms do not prohibit a casual worker seeking work from another company.
“A significant number of casual workers have moved from ‘zero hour’ terms into permanent employment when the circumstances allow (for example, when the worker wishes to apply for a permanent role if one becomes available). Many of these workers have developed very successful careers within Sports Direct, including the Chief Executive, senior head office management, regional managers, area managers, store managers and many more.”
On staff rewards, it says: “Virtually all casual retail workers are eligible for bonus payments in addition to their contracted hourly rate of pay. In November 2015, over 80% of retail casual workers achieved a performance-related bonus.
“Sports Direct also operates one of the most successful share-based employee incentive schemes in the UK, which is open to around 2,500 participating employees.
“The historical and current bonus arrangements are an integral part of the Company’s reward culture and have led directly to a significant improvement in Sports Direct’s financial performance. These arrangements have ensured that the staff are able to share in the Company’s success.”
The company says it “always seeks to improve and do things better, listens to criticism and acts where appropriate.
“With that in mind, as noted above, the board has agreed that Mike Ashley shall personally oversee a review of all agency worker terms and conditions to ensure the company does not just meet its legal obligations, but also provides a good environment for the entire workforce. We expect him to start that work in the New Year.”