A report by the Business, Innovation and Skills committee states Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley must be held accountable for company failings. Evidence suggested Sports Direct’s working practices were similar to those of a Victorian workhouse, one MP said.
In response, Sports Direct said in a statement that its policy is to treat all people “with dignity and respect”.It comes after Mr Ashley recently told MPs the firm was being investigated over staff being paid below the minimum wage.
Union officials told MPs that in one case an employee had given birth in a toilet at the company’s warehouse base in Shirebrook, Derbyshire, because she feared losing her job if she called in sick.
Allegations also surfaced of some workers being promised permanent contracts in exchange for sexual favours.
Committee chairman Iain Wright said evidence heard by MPs last month suggested Sports Direct’s working practices “are closer to that of a Victorian workhouse than that of a modern, reputable High Street retailer”.
“It’s seems incredible that Mike Ashley, who visits the warehouse at least once a week, was unaware of these appalling practices,” Mr Wright said.
“This suggests Mr Ashley was turning a blind eye to conditions at Sports Direct in the interests of maximising profits, or that there are serious corporate governance failings which left him out of the loop in spite of all the evidence.
“Mike Ashley had to be brought kicking and screaming to answer the committee’s questions.
“To Mr Ashley’s credit, when he gave evidence he was open and willing to engage and he is now setting out some of the steps which Sports Direct needs to take to stop these practices recurring.”