Furloughed Staff Claim Sports Direct is Still Trying to Make Them Come to Work

By Tom Pritchard on at

Sports Direct has never come across as a very popular company, nor does its owner Mike Ashley come across as a well-liked human being, but it seems the pandemic is really doing a lot to tarnish that reputation even further. Because upper management apparently can't stop being a bunch of nobs to their staff amidst the worst health crisis for decades. The latest bit of bad news to come out is that claims are being made that Sports Direct is trying to make furloughed staff come into work, in defiance of the rules of the furlough scheme that say that's not allowed.

For those that have forgotten, Sports Direct came under fire for insisting that its staff were essential workers, and for telling in-store staff to come to work when they were all closed - and without any PPE equipment to boot. And now managers say they're being asked to volunteer to go to work once a week, despite being on furlough. All so they could pack up stock that was to be returned to warehouses and sold online - the only part of the business that is still open and (presumably) earning the company money.

Two managers are telling the Guardian that they're specifically told not to clock in, claiming it's supposed to be done in secret, which suggests the company knows exactly what they're doing. For those that don't know, the government's furlough scheme covers 80 per cent of staff pay, but a stipulation is that staff can't do any work. If the claims are true, then someone high up at Sports Direct is probably trying to get some free labour thanks to the government footing the bill.

This isn't the only thing Sports Direct is up to right now, either. The Guardian is also reporting that the Frasers Group (which operates Sports Direct, House of Fraser, and others) had told staff it was going to reopen full time on Monday - but those staff would only receive 90 per cent of their usual pay. Again all to return stock to warehouses.

That's slightly better than trying to use public money while staff are in work, but the pay cut is really not on. More so when the government still hasn't pulled us out of lockdown, and there's still a significant risk of coronavirus transmission. Apparently the company has cancelled those plans after a Guardian report, but the same isn't true about asking furloughed staff to come to work. Probably on't take long for the company to panic and backtrack, as it has been doing since this fiasco began.

I have emailed Sports Direct asking for comment, and will update this if I hear back. [The Guardian]