Store managers at tycoon Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct and House of Fraser businesses were asked to work while on furlough, it has been alleged.

They were also asked to return to work today on reduced pay, according to The Guardian. However, the retailer changed its position after the publication of the story.

Employees told the newspaper that they had been asked to volunteer to go into shops for one day a week since the furlough took effect last month.

Two managers told the newspaper that they were told not to clock on when working in shops while on furlough, which would appear to break the scheme’s rules. They claimed to have been asked to pack stock in the branch for it to be returned to the warehouse and sold online.

One staff member alleged: “They are doing it secretly so people don’t know what they are doing.”

Employment lawyer at Trethowans Andrew Crudge said: “The guidance is quite clear. If people are being asked to work and that will create any revenue for the company that would be a breach of the provisions.”

Staff were also asked last week to return to work today. Managers at the Sports Direct and Frasers stores would have received 90% pay.

On Sunday afternoon, after The Guardian published the details, managers said they had been told they no longer had to return to work.