Sports Direct accused of “deliberately underpaying” staff by whistleblower

Sports Direct AGM

Sports Direct has once again come under fire from MPs over working practices after it was accused by a whistleblower of underpaying couriers.

The Work and Pensions Committee alongside the Business Select Committee have written to billionaire Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley, calling for a response to allegations that both his company and courier firm Hermes were underpaying staff.

The whistleblower accused the companies of sending larger heavy parcels and classifying them as “packets”, meaning the courier is paid less for its delivery.

They gave examples such as a bike and a parcel weighing over 10kg, and said Sports Direct was “the most persistent company for this, (they) almost always send parcels through as packets”.

Work and Pensions Committee chairman Frank Field said: “In the last parliament we heard egregious examples of companies using an essentially bogus classification of self-employment to shirk their responsibilities to those who work for them.

“However, they were simply exploiting loopholes in the law, which we hope to see rectified in this parliament.

“If this complaint stands up, it represents a new low in actually deliberately underpaying workers for the work they do.

“We look forward to a speedy response and if there is merit in these claims, an immediate change in working practices and proper compensation for workers who have been subjected to this.”

In response to the allegations, Hermes saidd:  “We categorically deny these allegations and are happy to answer any questions raised. We have stringent processes in place to check that parcels are not mislabelled and placed in the wrong weight category.

“On the rare occasion of an individual label being incorrect, couriers can immediately call our dedicated courier support team, to notify us and change their payment with no questions asked.

“This applies to all our clients and ensures that both Hermes and our couriers receive the correct payment. We have no issues with Sports Direct who remain a valued customer.”

The news comes just days after Sports Direct’s annual general meeting, where chairman Keith Hellawell was narrowly voted back in to his role.

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