Frasers chal­lenges min­i­mum wage claims

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business - By Laura Onita

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.

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