Sports Direct managers say firm asked them to work while on furlough

Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct and House of Fraser firms reportedly asked store managers to work one day a week despite being furloughed.

According to The Guardian, store managers allege that they had been asked to come into stores and prepare stock ready to be distributed to its Shirebrook warehouse to be sold online. The paper also reports that in two cases managers were told not to clock on. 

If correct, this would be in direct breach of the guidelines set out by the government when placing staff on furlough which clearly states: “To be eligible for the grant, when on furlough, an employee cannot undertake work for, or on behalf, of the organisation or any linked or associated organisation.”

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In addition, managers were asked to return to work today (Monday 4 May), on reduced pay, however the company has allegedly decided to make a u-turn on the decision in light of the Guardian story being published. 

Retail Sector has contacted the Frasers Group for comment.

The news comes only a month after Mike Ashley was forced to apologise for the Frasers Group’s response to the Covid-19 lockdown.

It comes after reports that Ashley lobbied the government to keep Sports Direct open and was still asking employees to still come to work at the high street retailer.

Newcastle Central MP Chi Onwurah raised the issue during prime minister’s questions on the 25 March, and said: “The people of Newcastle are desperately trying to do the right thing, although my inbox tells me they are angry, confused, running out of money, isolated and stranded in some cases.

“However, not all businesses are doing the right thing and I am particularly thinking of Mike Ashley forcing workers into empty Sports Direct shops. The prime minister said that businesses should stand with their staff. What is his message to those who don’t?”

Ashley said it was “necessary” to address and apologise for much of what has been reported across various media outlets regarding his “personal actions and those of the Frasers Group business”.

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