Mike Ashley’s retail empire Sports Direct has given way to pressure over its controversial “zero hours” contracts following a legal bid from a former employee.
The firm, which has several outlets across the North East, has been forced to spell out rights of workers on zero hours, after the action brought by Zahera Gabriel-Abraham.
Ms Gabriel-Abraham’s case was due to go a full hearing at Croydon Employment Tribunal in November this year but an agreement has now been struck with the sportswear retailer, aimed at securing better working rights for the retailer’s 20,000 plus zero hours staff members.
Among the measures, the firm has agreed to rewrite their job adverts and employment contracts for future zero hours staff, to expressly state that the roles do not guarantee work, and produce clear written policies setting out what sick pay and paid holiday their zero hours staff are entitled to.
Copied of the new policies are also to be put up in all staff rooms used by zero hours staff across its 400 plus stores in the UK.
A spokeswoman for the firm said: “Sports Direct confirms that we have reached a settlement with Ms Gabriel-Abraham.
“The settlement is without any admission of any liability on the part of Sports Direct whatsoever.
“It was clear from the proceedings that we and Ms Gabriel-Abraham felt equally strongly about our respective positions and that each had different perceptions of the events that took place.
“The company will continue the process of reviewing, updating and improving our core employment documents and procedures across our entire business beyond its existing compliant framework.”
Elizabeth George, from the law firm Leigh Day which represented Ms Gabriel-Abraham in her claim against Sports Direct for sex discrimination, unfair treatment and breach of holiday rights, said: “Sports Direct continue to deny any wrong doing or short-falls in their treatment of zero hours workers but Zahera and many more of the company’s zero hours staff will tell you differently.
“Zero hours workers are not second class workers. They have the right to be treated fairly and with respect. They have the right to take holidays and to be paid when they take them. They have the right to statutory sick pay.
“They have a right to request guaranteed hours.
“Sports Direct will now have to make that crystal clear to staff. By doing so the risk of those rights being ignored or misunderstood by managers will be significantly reduced in the future.
“The changes that Zahera has achieved mean that there will now be total transparency about what sort of contract is on offer.
“Taking on a company in this way is daunting. Taking on a company this size is doubly daunting. Zahera should feel very proud of what she has achieved”.
The steps agreed in relation to the company’s job advertisements will apply from 25 November 2014. All other changes have to be completed by the Company by no later than 25 February 2015.
Ms Gabriel-Abraham said she was pleased with the agreement.
“I started the legal action because I felt strongly, not just about my own treatment, but about the treatment of many other zero hours employees,” she said.
“The new job advertisements will mean that people will not find themselves in a situation where what you think are getting isn’t what you actually get.”