Sports Direct's Mike Ashley agrees to pay staff national minimum wage from 2016

Thousands of workers on zero-hours contracts will not get a payrise

Sports Direct has caved to pressure over its employment practices and agreed to pay all staff the national minimum wage from January 1, 2016. Workers on zero-hours contracts are not included in the raise.

In a statement on New Year's Eve, founder Mike Ashley said that the retailer had a "commitment" to paying all of its directly employed UK employees and directly engaged casual workers above the minimum wage.

He estimated that the cost of the policy would come in at around £10 million. 

Unite, the UK's largest trade union, said the decision was a PR stunt. 

“This pitiful promise by Sports Direct to pay just over the minimum wage should not distract from the ‘Victorian’ work practices at the retailer’s massive Shirebrook depot. Nor should it deter HMRC from investigating the possible non-payment of the minimum wage to the thousands of agency staff who eke out a living on the site," said Luke Primarolo, Unite regional officer.

Sports Direct is trying to clean up its image after scrutiny over its employment practices exposed thousands of workers on zero-hours contracts, with no job security or guaranteed hours from one week to the next. Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner has said the way Sports Direct operates is a “throw-back to the Victorian era”.

Sports Direct is responsible for around a fifth of all zero-hours contracts in the UK. 

The announcement comes after Ashley said he would personally oversee a review of working practices in the New Year. 

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