The Courier & Advertiser (Angus and Dundee)
Minimum wage not paid to all workers
INVESTIGATION: Ashley tells MPs of “issues” with working practices
Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley has admitted that he paid workers below the minimum wage, also telling MPs he has discovered “issues” with working practices at the retailer as part of an internal review.
Mr Ashley told MPs from the Business Select Committee security guards at the company’s Shirebrook warehouse held up staff from leaving, meaning they were effectively paid less than the minimum wage.
MPs are investigating the working practices at Sports Direct’s warehouse, including conditions, use of zero-hours contracts, and payment procedures.
Mr Ashley described his review as a “work in progress”, adding: “I’ve discovered some issues and I’ve hopefully addressed some of those issues.
“Bottlenecks at security are the main issue.”
He also revealed HMRC is investigating the firm over wages, and that Sports Direct is in talks to offer backpay to staff.
Mr Ashley, sitting alongside public relations adviser Keith Bishop, was asked if employees were effectively paid less than the minimum wage, and answered: “On that specific point, for that specific bit of time, yes.”
Earlier, MPs heard from the Unite union that a “culture of fear” pervaded at the warehouse, claiming one Sports Direct employee was forced to give birth in a toilet.
Mr Ashley said he only spoke to the trade unions when they had the option to ask questions at the company’s AGM.
He said it was excessive that 110 ambulances were called to the warehouse between January 1 2013 and April 19 this year. He pledged to implement changes to practices within 90 days.
On zero-hour contracts, Mr Ashley said his review had not covered that side of the business yet, but added that he agrees that some staff should be transferred to full-time contracts.
However, he admitted the 20% fulltime and 80% part-time split of Sports Direct’s workforce is the wrong balance.