Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley to review agency worker terms and conditions


Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley is to oversee a review of all agency worker terms and conditions at the company, the board has announced.

The move follows criticism of the retail giant's pay and employment practices, including the use of zero hours contracts, under which staff don't know how many hours they will work from one week to the next.

The Unite union has mounted a campaign against the company, holding demonstrations and briefing MPs in Parliament earlier this week.

In a long statement today, Sports Direct defended itself against the criticism.

The statement said: "Sports Direct has sought to address questions relating to its employment practices on a case-by-case basis directly with the enquirer, but it has become evident that by doing so various parties have chosen to ignore the facts provided and have continued to present an unfair portrayal of the company's employment practices.

"Sadly, it is also now clear that some others have chosen to rely on this portrayal when making public statements about Sports Direct, rather than obtaining information directly from the company before commenting.

"The board takes its responsibilities towards all the company's stakeholders, be they staff, contractors, suppliers or customers, extremely seriously.

"Without our commitment to our staff and the implementation of a performance-led culture which encourages success, there is no way Sports Direct would have been able to grow from a single sports shop over 33 years ago to the global retailer it is today."

The board said it was making the statement to counter "unfounded criticisms" of its employment practices. MPs have called for an investigation into allegations that workers were paid below the minimum wage and were subjected to body searches.

The statement continued: "Sports Direct directly employs a number of staff in the Shirebrook warehouse. The remaining workers in the warehouse have contracts with one of two main agencies the company uses to staff the warehouse. These contracts are on an agreed (between the worker and the agency) contracted hours basis.

"No Sports Direct employees are engaged in the Shirebrook warehouse on a zero hour contract, and the main agencies have confirmed to us that none of their workers are engaged on a zero hour contract. 

"The two main agencies that Sports Direct uses to provide workers at Shirebrook supply workers to hundreds of companies nationally including many retail warehouses. The agencies use the same core terms and conditions for all their employees (totalling 35,000 across the UK), with some limited localised variations. A review of all the terms and conditions applicable to the agency workers supplied to Sports Direct will be undertaken, and we will be considering implementing appropriate additional variations once that review is completed.

"Neither agency workers nor 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.

"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."