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Sports Direct faces minimum wage allegations

Published
Jul 24, 2020
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An undercover report has brought working conditions at Sports Direct’s Shirebrook warehouse back into the spotlight.


Sports Direct


According to an undercover investigation from the Guardian, warehouse workers at the company’s Derbyshire facilities might be receiving pay below the national minimum wage.

The allegations come four years after another report from the paper exposed poor working conditions at the warehouse, triggering a pledge from Sports Direct to improve its working practices in 2016.

In the latest investigation, an undercover reporter was placed inside the logistics hub during two weeks in late June and early July. The building, which is home to an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 workers, is used to distribute goods for Frasers Group, the owner of retailers including Sports Direct, House of Fraser, Jack Wills and Flannels.

The Guardian claimed that warehouse staff were unable to leave the building during their 30-minute unpaid breaks. This has been criticised by law experts, who say breaks should be paid if workers are not allowed to take rest away from their workstation. If they are right, the correction would push the company’s effective hourly wage rates below the legal minimum of £8.72 to about £8.20.

A minimum age expert, who did not want to be named, told the newspaper: “I have been involved in many inquiries where HMRC’s interpretation is that if you are not free to do [what] and go where you wish during your break then it will be counted as working time. In your example [at Sports Direct] a daily 30-minute unpaid break would result in a minimum wage breach.”

Reacting to the claims, Frasers Group released a statement on Thursday evening. It said: “We of course take any comments about our workplace conditions very seriously and will investigate them as appropriate, in line with all applicable laws and regulations.
 
“We should add that we consider on advice that it is extremely unlikely that anyone employed by us has been underpaid because of the treatment of unpaid rest breaks.”

Concerns about labour exploitation in the UK garment manufacturing sector have also resurfaced in recent weeks in Leicester, after a report claimed that some factories paid workers below the minimum wage and failed to protect them from the Covid-19 outbreak.

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