Mike Ashley and his Lomond Shores shopping complex at Balloch.

By Democrat reporter

Managers at Sports Direct say they’re being called into work at least once a week, despite being placed on the Government’s furlough scheme a month ago.

The Guardian newspaper is reporting that staff at House of Fraser and the sportswear chain claim they’re being asked to volunteer to help pack up store stock, in a move that could breach the job retention scheme’s rules.

The House of Fraser has an anchor store at struggling Lomond Shores in Balloch.

Two managers told The Guardian they had been told not to clock on when they worked in stores while on furlough – seemingly in breach of the rules of the scheme, under which the government covers 80% of staff pay.

They said they had been asked to pack up store stock so it could be returned to the group’s warehouse and sold online.

Ashley’s managers had also been asked to return to work – on reduced pay – on Monday, but the company later did a U-turn.

“They are doing it secretly so people don’t know what they are doing,” one worker said.

Andrew Crudge, an employment law expert at legal firm Trethowans, said: “The guidance is quite clear. If people are being asked to work and that will create any revenue for the company that would be a breach of the provisions.

Sports Direct previously tried to claim it was an essential operator for keeping the nation fit, but subsequently said they would close stores.

They were told they were required in stores 10 hours a day on at least five days a week to return stock to the retail group’s warehouse in Shirebrook, Derbyshire, so that it could be sold online and to prepare stores for physical distancing measures for when they are allowed to reopen.

Managers were told that Frasers had seen non-food stores being allowed to open again in mainland Europe and believed the UK government could release shops from lockdown within three weeks.

“Until the government says we need to go back and the protection is there I am not going,” one worker said.

“Everyone is scared,” he said. “They are paying us low wages for a long time and we have been working overtime for years … Why do I have to be frightened and likely spreading disease if they are not giving us anything.”

The latest controversy comes after Ashley was forced to issue a public apology for keeping Sports Direct stores open after non-essential retailers were ordered to close last month.

The chain later came under for inflating prices as demand for fitness equipment rose online.

Sports Direct said prices were increased to help relieve the pressure caused by staff shortages.

Many of the increases, some as much as 50%, were on Sports Direct-owned brands.
In England, up until Today (Monday) only supermarkets, pet shops, launderettes (and dry cleaners), post offices, banks, garages, newsagents (including off licences), pharmacies, hardware stores and petrol stations are allowed to trade under the Prime Minister’s lockdown measures.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was laying out an exit plan at a lunchtime media briefing.

One comment

  1. If accurate action should be taken against Mike Ashley’s company.

    Corporate benefit fraud at the taxpayers expense is something that should not be tolerated. But like so much in the corporate sector wrong doing is a free for all that the corporates can indulge in without fear of sanction.

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