Reported by The London Evening Standard:
Billionaire Mike Ashley is today revealed as the biggest employer to use the soon-to-be illegal “zero hour” contracts that potentially stop the 20,000 part-time staff at his retail empire getting a second job.
The policy was described as unfair and exploitative by MPs and campaigners and means 90 per cent of workers at his Sports Direct stores have no guaranteed working hours and must seek permission from management to work elsewhere.
The revelation comes a year after senior management at Sports Direct took share option bonuses worth three times their pay. Ashley has a personal fortune of an estimated £3.75 billion, according to the Sunday Times Rich List.
The Government is seeking to ban such working conditions. Ministers estimate some 125,000 workers will benefit, meaning Sports Direct staff account for almost one in six of the entire workforce the Government wants to help.
A copy of a 2012 contract seen by the Evening Standard says: “If you wish to undertake any work outside the company, whether paid or unpaid, you should raise the matter with your manager … it may be decided that the additional work would conflict with your duties at Sports Direct.com Retail Limited. You would then be prevented from taking it up.”
It is understood this clause remains in current contracts and does not give minimum guaranteed working hours. Campaigners have described the wording as an “exclusivity” clause although it is not known whether Sports Direct enforces the rule. Sports Direct will be forced to defend its record at an employment tribunal bought by an ex-worker later this year. Labour MP Alison McGovern said: “This seems like ‘exclusivity’ in all but name to me. It is clearly exploitative and really unfair.”
Zero hours contracts are also reportedly used by companies including McDonalds, Cineworld and Burger King franchisees.
A spokesman for the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills said zero hours contracts can benefit some workers because of the flexibility. But she added: “Unfortunately, it has become clear that some employers abuse this flexibility.”
Sports Direct declined to comment.