Undercover investigation reveals the reality of working at Shirebrook’s Sports Direct warehouse and how staff ‘don’t get minimum wage’

Sports Direct headquarters at Shirebrook.
Sports Direct headquarters at Shirebrook.

Workers at the Sports Direct headquarters in Shirebrook are receiving hourly rates of pay which are effectively below the minimum wage, an investigation has revealed.

An undercover investigation carried out by the Guardian Newspaper, to which the Mansfield Chad contributed, has found that workers are left out of pocket by the company’s practice of forcing workers to undergo partial strip-searchers at the end of each shift.

Undercover reports discovered that on average workers at the site - of which around 80 per cent are on zero-hour contracts - were forced to stay for an extra 75 minutes per week, for which they were not paid, to be searched.

This forced their hourly rate down from the national minimum wage of £6.70 to around £6.50 per hour, which the newspaper said saved the company millions of pounds per year.

The investigation also claims that workers were harangued by tannoy announcements telling them to work faster, and were banned from wearing over 800 branded items on site.

The probe also explores the company’s controversial ‘six-strikes and you’re out’ policy - first revealed in a Chad investigation in 2014 - and how workers were terrified to speak out against working conditions for fear of being shown the door.

“By placing two undercover reporters inside Sports Direct’s warehouse, as well as interviewing former employees and speaking with workers about their roles while the journalists were employed on the site, the Guardian has established that many workers are in effect receiving less than the minimum wage per hour, over the total time they are required to spend in the warehouse and after financial penalties,” the article states.

“All warehouse workers are kept onsite at the end of each shift in order to undergo a compulsory search by Sports Direct security staff, with the experience of the Guardian reporters suggesting this typically adds another hour and 15 minutes to the working week – which is unpaid.”

In January 2014 the Chad exclusively revealed that police were called to the Shirebrook HQ after a migrant worker gave birth to a baby boy in the staff toilets on New Year’s Day.

The news outraged politicians and union leaders who raised concerns about health and safety practices at the Shirebrook-based company, owned by billionaire businessman and Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley.

In its own investigation almost two years ago, Chad revealed that MPs and union chiefs were calling on the firm to urgently review its working practices and allow unions onto the site.

Chad also revealed:

- Sports Direct operated a draconian ‘strike system’ where staff would be sacked if they committed a series of misdemeanours such as turning up late or ringling in sick

- That around 3,000 of the largely migrant workforce were all employed on zero-hour contracts

- That staff had to undergo a degrading search before they were allowed to leave for the day, although many workers said that the waiting time was much longer than that experienced by the Guardian staff.

Zoe Lagadec, a solicitor at Mulberry’s Employment Law Solicitors, said: “Given that the employees are not free to leave their place of work until and unless the security check has been completed, this time should be considered ‘working time’ and therefore paid in accordance with the national minimum wage provisions.”

Additionally, Sports Direct workers are docked 15 minutes of pay for clocking in as little as one minute late – even if they have arrived on the site on time.

However, staff are not paid extra for clocking out late, even when they have been finishing a job.

Literature handed to one of the reporters by The Best Connection employment agency, used by Sports Direct, said: “If you do not clock in by your shift start time then you will be recorded as LATE for that day and your hours and pay will be reduced by a minimum of 15 minutes”, the Guardian said.

Sports Direct said the Guardian’s findings contained “inaccuracies” but declined to comment further. The Best Connection agency declined to comment.