Sports Direct has come under fire in the past week following an investigation into its working practices by the Guardian. Journalists Simon Goodley and Jonathon Ashby worked undercover at a Sports Direct warehouse in Shirebrook, Derbyshire and reported that its workers – of which there are up to 5,000 each day – are effectively paid less than minimum wage.
Workers are subject to a full search at the end of the shift, as part of Sports Direct’s zero tolerance of theft. This is mandatory, but unpaid. It typically takes workers fifteen minutes each to complete their search. As workers are paid the minimum wage of £6.70 for an eight hour shift but are not paid for this extra working time, they are effectively earning about £6.50 per hour.
By contrast, workers have their pay docked if they clock in as little as one minute late. This is also not calculated in proportion with their latness: the reporter said that a worker had their pay docked by 15 minutes after ‘arriving at the warehouse on time, but clocking in five minutes late.’
The investigation has led to MPs calling for HMRC to do an official inquiry into the claims about its treatment of employees and whether the company is in breach of employment laws.
While Sports Direct have denied the allegations that they are paying below minimum wage, Nick Boles, a business minister, has added pressure on HMRC to investigate the matter.
“Boles said he could not give an “absolute pronouncement” about some of the practices associated with Sports Direct but stressed that “anything that counts as work must be compensated at least at the level of the minimum wage”.”
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