Zero hours change at Sports Direct

Published: Monday 27th October 2014 by The News Editor

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Retail giant Sports Direct has agreed to make “major changes” for staff on zero hours contracts after legal action brought by a former employee, a law firm has announced.

Job adverts will be re-written and employment contracts for future zero hours staff will make it clear that work is not guaranteed, said Leigh Day.

The firm represented Zahera Gabriel-Abraham in an employment tribunal claim for sex discrimination, unfair treatment and breach of holiday rights.

Leigh Day said a legal settlement had been agreed aimed at securing better working rights for 20,000 Sports Direct employees on zero hours contracts.

Elizabeth George, from the law firm, said: “Sports Direct continues to deny any wrong doing or short-falls in the 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. That has to be right when you are talking about jobs that don’t guarantee people work.

“Lack of transparency was one of the key concerns identified by the Government in its recent investigation into zero hours contracts. The Government chose not to make transparency mandatory. This settlement means that it is now mandatory for Sports Direct.

“The fact that these promises are in the public domain is also very important. It means that if Sports Direct does not do what it has promised to do – it will be held to account.”

A company spokesman 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.”

The case, supported by campaign group 38 Degrees, was due to go before Croydon Employment Tribunal in November.

Laura Townshend of 38 Degrees said: “Thousands of 38 Degrees members supported this historic challenge to Sports Direct’s use of zero hours staff. Now this legally binding commitment has lifted the bar for every other employer. It leaves big business with no more excuses.

“The fight for more protection for zero hours workers isn’t over. But this news shows that even the biggest employers of zero hours workers are finally upping their game.”

Zahera Gabriel-Abraham said: “I was told that if I took holidays, I wouldn’t get holiday pay, and that if I was ill I wouldn’t get sick pay. It made me feel trapped and helpless, but it’s something that Sports Direct won’t be allowed to get away with any more.

“Only time will tell whether Sports Direct are really dedicated to improving how it treats its workers. This is a good result for Sports Direct employees, but the fight isn’t over yet.”

Published: Monday 27th October 2014 by The News Editor

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