Sports Direct is set to pay thousands of warehouse workers back pay totalling an estimated £1m for non-payment of the national minimum wage, but MPs have said its employment practices will “continue to be under the spotlight”.
The payments, back dated to May 2012 for direct employees and agency workers, cover unpaid searches at the end of shifts at the warehouse in Shirebrook, Derbyshire. Some workers could receive up to £1,000, according to trade union Unite.
Workers directly employed by Sports Direct and through the employment agency The Best Connection are expected to start receiving the back pay in full towards the end of August.
However, Unite said as many as 1,700 Transline agency workers at the site may only initially receive half the back pay they are owed.
Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley admitted to MPs in June that hourly wage rates had dipped as a result of “bottlenecks” in security checks at Shirebrook, which delayed staff on site after they had clocked off.
Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: “This is a significant victory in Unite’s ongoing campaign to secure justice and dignity at work for workers at Sports Direct.”
However, he warned that “deep-seated problems still remain regarding the use of agency workers”.
“Mike Ashley and the Sports Direct board should be under no illusions. The charge of ‘Victorian’ work practices will continue to weigh heavily on Sports Direct until it moves long standing agency workers onto direct, permanent contracts and weans itself off its reliance upon zero-hours contracts.”
Transline and The Best Connection supply over 3,000 agency workers to Sports Direct.
Unite is urging shareholders to back a resolution at Sports Direct’s annual general meeting for an independent review into work practices at the retailer.
Iain Wright, chair of the business, iInnovation and skills committee, which investigated concerns about employment practices at the firm, said: “In June when Mike Ashley appeared before the committee he admitted for the first time that workers at Sports Direct’s Derbyshire warehouse were paid below the minimum wage. That is unacceptable.
“It has now been reported the company is acting to put this right. The back payments represent a lot of money which employees should have received in the first place.
“While this is good news, working practices continue to be under the spotlight at Sports Direct. Mike Ashley will be updating us in the autumn on the steps he has taken to address the appalling practices that have been identified and we will be checking that he is as good as his word.”
Drapers has contacted Sports Direct for a comment.