Frasers challenges minimum wage claims
MIKE ASHLEY’S Frasers Group, which includes Sports Direct and House of Fraser, has insisted that it takes workplace conditions “very seriously” after reports that unpaid breaks might mean some of its staff are not paid enough.
“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,” the company added as part of a statement to the market.
The remarks came after a report in The Guardian stated that warehouse staff at its depot in Shirebrook were unable to leave the premises during their 30-minute unpaid breaks.
This, in turn, has led some employment lawyers to think that it could push hourly wage rates below the legal minimum of £8.72 to about £8.20.
Frasers said it will investigate any claims if necessary. The latest controversy comes five years after it emerged that the retailer was breaching minimum wage law at the same warehouse in Shirebrook. MPs at the time said that Sports Direct, now called Frasers, treated “workers as commodities rather than as human beings”.
Since then, workers have received about £1m in back pay. Sports Direct was also forced to improve its working practices and vowed to implement a string of changes.
The law says employees are allowed to spend rest breaks away from their workstation and breaks do not tend to count as working time and do not have to be paid.
However, lawyers argue that is only the case if a worker is able to spend the break how he or she wishes.