Sports Direct accused of “effectively” paying below minimum wages
Guardian investigation finds temporary staff are searched daily
In December 2015, a Guardian investigation revealed that temporary workers at Sports Direct were receiving effective hourly rates of pay below the minimum wage.
According to the article warehouse staff at the group, were required to go through searches at the end of each shift, for which their time was unpaid, while they also suffered harsh deductions from their wage packets for clocking in for a shift just one minute late.
The Guardian said:
"The practices contribute to many staff being paid an effective rate of about £6.50 an hour against the statutory rate of £6.70 – potentially saving the FTSE 100 firm millions of pounds a year at the expense of some of the poorest workers in the UK."
The investigation also revealed workers were also:
- Harangued by tannoy for not working fast enough.
- Warned they would be sacked if they received six black marks – or “strikes” (see document below) – over a six-month period for offences including a “period of reported sickness”; “errors”; “excessive/long toilet breaks”; “time wasting”; “excessive chatting”; “horseplay”; and “using a mobile phone in the warehouse”.
- Banned from wearing 802 separate clothing brands at work.
- Have to go through rigorous searches – down to the last layer of clothing, asked to roll up trouser legs and show top of underwear – which typically takes 15 minutes, because management is so concerned about potential theft.
Fear of losing jobs
Local primary schoolteachers also told the Guardian that pupils can remain in school while ill – and return home to empty houses – as parents working at Sports Direct were too frightened to take time off work. Union officers say the strict culture in the warehouse had resulted in workers being afraid to speak out over low pay and conditions as they fear immediately losing their jobs.
The Guardian stated that it placed two undercover reporters inside Sports Direct’s warehouse, as well as "interviewing former employees and speaking with workers about their roles while the journalists were employed on the site."
Less than mininum wage
Through its investigation the Guardian established that many workers were, in effect, receiving less than the minimum wage per hour, over the total time they are required to spend in the warehouse and after financial penalties.
It said "all warehouse workers are kept onsite at the end of each shift in order to undergo a compulsory search by Sports Direct security staff".
The Guardian reporters suggested that this process typically adds another hour and 15 minutes to the working week – which is unpaid. It had raised questions of whether such practices were within the law relating to the minimum wage.
Furthermore, Sports Direct workers were docked 15 minutes of pay for clocking in as little as one minute late – even if they had arrived on the site on time. Conversely, staff were not paid extra for clocking out late, even when they had been finishing a job.
Literature handed to one of the reporters by The Best Connection employment agency, used by Sports Direct, said:
“If you do not clock in by your shift start time then you will be recorded as LATE for that day and your hours and pay will be reduced by a minimum of 15 minutes.”
The Guardian’s undercover reporters were employed during November by the two main agencies used by Sports Direct to supply temporary warehouse staff – Transline Group and The Best Connection.
See where Sports Direct ranks on our ethical shopping guide to sportswear
This story has been added to our corporate database. The database powers all our live product guides, giving the score for each company on our rankings tables. Find out more about how we rate companies.