Investigations conducted by the BBC for its documentary series Inside Out have exposed a series of controversial agency imposed working regulations at Sports Direct. The rules have reportedly been discouraging agency workers from taking sick leave. The BBC also found that a high number of ambulance call outs have been made from the company’s Derbyshire warehouse.
Sports Direct hires staff through an agency that operates a ‘six strikes’ policy, which sees employees dismissed within the first months of their employment if they infringe a number of strict rules. The BBC found that ‘a strike’ can be given for taking a period of sick leave or for taking excessive toilet breaks.
The policy has reportedly been fostering a culture of fear within the company, which is prompting agency recruited employees to avoid taking sick days. A Freedom of Information request obtained by reporters at Inside Out found that ambulances had been dispatched to the company 76 times in the last two years. Nearly half of the call-outs were for ‘life threatening’ illnesses, including chest pains, breathing problems and strokes. There was also a case of a woman giving birth in the toilets of the company’s Shirebrook warehouse.
Government regulation designed to protect agency workers insists that agency provided employees be offered statutory sick pay, statutory maternity and paternity pay as well as statutory adoption pay.
There were also a number of workplace related incidents at Sports Direct, which has previously been accused by the Unite Union of utilising ‘Victorian working practices’ and for using controversial zero hour contracts.
Inside Out, which will be broadcast tonight, has passed the details of its investigation to the Health and Safety Executive, which will examine the data. Sports Direct denies any wrong doing.