Sports Direct’s Unsporting Practices

The Department of Business Industry and Skills recently published its report into the Sports Direct retail chain.

The company’s working practices have been compared to those of a ‘Victorian workhouse’, permeated by an atmosphere of fear, where employees were too terrified to take days off when ill and were docked 15 minutes pay if they arrived 1 minute late. Other allegations included new female employees being referred to as ‘new meat’ and another employee giving birth in the toilet. The committee also heard that some staff provided by employment agencies were paid through a pre-paid card with a £10 per month management fee and a 75p charge to use at an ATM machine. Mike Ashley, the billionaire founder of the chain, even conceded during the committee hearing that the company had breached minimum wage legislation.

The report is damning in its appraisal of the company’s employment practices and is an extreme example of the type of reputational damage (let alone legal claims) which can follow when companies get these things wrong.

Dominic Bonham