Working for the future of Bedford & Kempston

Please note: This site covers the period that I was a Member of Parliament from May 2010 to June 2017. 

The Business, Innovation and Skills Committee has today published its findings into employment practices at Sports Direct.

The Committee was presented with a disturbing picture of the working practices and business model at Sports Direct. In evidence to the BIS Committee, Mr Ashley admitted for the first time that workers had effectively been paid below the national minimum wage and that Sports Direct had got too big for him to control.

The Committee also heard a series of accounts of worker mistreatment, including staff being penalised for matters such as taking a short break to drink water and for taking time off work when ill – the ‘six strikes and you’re out’ policy.

Other evidence pointed to serious health and safety breaches, with repeated ambulance calls to the Shirebrook warehouse, including one case where a woman gave birth in the site toilets.

Richard as a key member of the Committee, is leading efforts to persuade the Government led by Theresa May to bring forward proposals to ensure businesses work for their employees and not just for their bosses.

The full report can be read here.

1 Response to BIS Committee publishes report into employment practices at Sports Direct

  • Hello Richard

    I am very pleased to see you are a member of the committee investigating the Sports Direct scandal. As you know I am an HR practitioner of nearly 30 years, and a Non Executive director of a successful UK manufacturing company, as well as holding former Non Exec roles. I have scanned the Terms and Conditions section of the Report briefly and the management of temps, also zero hours contracts.

    I must raise with you that this type of management is very much a British industry business model.

    It has been brought about by the constant interference by people who don’t have any knowledge of employing people or running a business, earnestly implementing swathes of lengthy procedures for businesses to follow in the hiring, firing and management of under performers, the habitually off sick, and those with extremely difficult behaviour in the workplace. Properly used zero hours contracts are excellent for employees and employers, and they do give employers in all sectors the opportunity to actually release those who add nothing to a business back into the job market.

    One of the most ridiculous actions – in my humble opinion – was to abolish the default retirement age. We had a perfectly good system whereby employees approaching 65 could be asked what their plans were, if they wanted to stay on full time, part time, whatever and in many cases folks wanted to work a reduced week and train a young person into the role. There was also the opportunity to retire those who were no longer fit to work. We are now told, as some righteous person on Radio 4 intoned, that there are 3 legal ways to retire someone – disciplinary, capability or redundancy. The spectre arises of having to conjure up a disciplinary issue to fire a long serving employee; to put someone through the long capability process in order to dismiss them for the reason of ‘incapability’, not a very caring end to a loyal employee’s service, or redundancy which means the job has gone and cannot be filled for at least 3 months.

    As to the commitment to treating people like human beings not commodities, it was not that long ago that ‘personnel’ became a dirty word and ‘Human resources’ became the name of the game – and people are considered just that, a resource. The latest is ‘Human Capital’ the skills, knowledge, and experience possessed by an individual viewed in terms of their value or cost to an employer – a commodity.

    Without great care the outcome could result in further swathes of draconian employment legislation which will work against business and we could do worse than to consider what we could use of the US system of employment ‘at will’.

    If at any time I can be of assistance with the view from the business world, I will be only to pleased to do so.

    Best wishes


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