Sports Direct – not the place for the unfit

ambulance_1817580bIf I was the CEO of Sport’s Direct, I would be arranging a swift overview of HR practices after the undesirable press today following a BBC investigation.

A Freedom of Information request has revealed that the East Midlands ambulance service were called to the head office more than 76 times in two years, for some workers with what was described as ‘life threatening conditions’.

It is apparent that Sports Direct have relationships with recruitment agencies that operate a 6 strike policy for temporary staff. According to this policy, workers can receive a strike for a range of “offences” including:

  • Periods of reported sickness
  • Excessive chatting
  • Excessive or long toilet breaks
  • Using a mobile phone in the warehouse

A document produced by one of the agencies stated that they can end an assignment “at any time without reason, notice or liability”. The article reports that “Former workers said some staff were “too scared” to take sick leave because they feared losing their jobs.”

Unite commented in the BBC article today that it had been told that last year there were about 3,000 agency workers at the Shirebrook headquarters of Sports Direct on zero-hour contracts.

A further 75% of staff across its UK stores are also on zero-hour contracts, with Sports Direct accounting for a fifth of all such contracts in the retail sector, according to Unite.

Sports Direct has also reported accidents in its warehouse have doubled in the past financial year.

Amelore comment

Whilst managing sickness absence is key for any employer it is important that any incentive practices don’t encourage workers to attend work if feeling unwell. This can result in the serious situations that have required ambulance attention that could perhaps have been avoided – ambulances that could be needed elsewhere threatening the health of others.

One should always take care that any practices comply with the Equality Act and that organisations are certain that the reason for absence is not linked to a disability.

We are aware of a primary school Head teacher who has implemented a policy of non-uniform day once a month for all children that have had 100% attendance. The ones that have had even 1 day off, are publically identified because they have to by wear full school uniform.

Naming and shaming young children who don’t decide for themselves whether they are well enough to attend is an extremely poor practice.

Sports Direct’s HR Director, CEO and H&S lead would do well to listen to their workers and union representatives and make some changes to their working practices to ensure any preventive accidents or health problems are prevented NOW.

 

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