• Sports Direct “deeply regrets and apologises for” working practices
  • It acknowledges “serious shortcomings”
  • Changes promised over zero-hours and six-strikes policy

Sports Direct has said its shop staff on zero-hours contracts will be given the option to take a permanent contract after a review of working practices.

However, staff swapping from a zero-hours contract will only be guaranteed a minimum of 12 hours work a week.

The review, conducted by the retailer’s legal advisers RPC, has been carried out in light of fierce criticism from MPs, the media and unions of Sports Direct’s staff treatment.

It also comes ahead of Sports Direct’s AGM tomorrow when it is expected to face pressure from shareholders over its corporate governance.

Sports Direct today admitted there has been “serious shortcomings” in its working practices which it “deeply regrets and apologises for”.

The report says the firm’s founder Mike Ashley “takes ultimate responsibility for any aspects of the working practices that were unsatisfactory”.

The retailer’s offer of guaranteed hours will apply to its 18,250 casual staff who work in its shops.

However its warehouse workers, 4,059 of which are agency workers, will not be given the opportunity to take a permanent contract. Instead they will remain on “336 contracts” which the report says is “arguably a form of zero hours contracts”. However these contracts will be reviewed.

Only 40 of Sports Direct’s warehouse workers are on permanent contracts.

The firm has also vowed to scrap its controversial “six strikes” policy at its warehouse, in which staff were given “a strike” for spending too long in the toilet, excessive chatting or taking a day off sick.

“It is a blunt instrument that can leave too much subjectivity in the hands of a few – contributing to a hierarchical and potentially oppressive model,” the company said.

It also promised to address the use of its tannoy system in the warehouse as the report said “anecdotally” it had been found it was being used to point out “shortcomings” among staff.

On wages, Sports Direct said it has increased the salary of staff on the national minimum wage by 15p per hour to “remove the possibility that relatively minor issues could take the pay below the NMW”. One of the issues has been staff queuing for security checks.

The Mike Ashley-controlled retailer has promised a further “comprehensive” review of its working practices and corporate governance to “identify what further action is required”.