Mike Ashley hopes to make Sports Direct the best retail employer after John Lewis. He faces a struggle if its staff reviews are anything to go by.

Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley has revealed his aspiration to make Sports Direct a better business to work for in the wake of criticism of its alleged employment practices. Ashley vowed he would try and make it “the best high street retail employer after John Lewis”.

But Sports Direct’s own employees have little good to say about working conditions at the retailer, their comments on jobs site Glassdoor show.

Staff posts on the site as recently as last month claim Sports Direct had little regard for health and safety, underpaid staff members and discriminated based on gender.

Data compiled by Glassdoor exclusively for Retail Week showed that a total of 41 reviews written about Sports Direct on the website during the final quarter of 2015 gave the retailer an average rating of 2.3 out of five when it came to staff satisfaction and happiness.

John Lewis scored four out of five based on similar data compiled in June, when Sports Direct’s rating stood at 2.2 – a total that left it 1.1 points adrift of 15th placed Sainsbury’s.

In recent weeks, Sports Direct has promised to review agency worker terms and conditions and vowed to pay above the minimum wage as of New Year’s Day, which helped increase its rating slightly among past and present staff members by the end of 2015.


But venting their views in December, one Glassdoor user, listing themselves as a former Sports Direct sales assistant, described the retailer as a “truly awful company”.

Posting anonymously, the former staff member maintained that the business had “no regard for health and safety” of employees amid claims that the the writer personally “blacked out three times in five minutes in the stock room, just to be told to get on with it”.

The post concluded: “I’d prefer a five-year prison sentence to another hour working here.”

Another former employee at one of Sports Direct’s stores in Dover admitted the flexible working hours offered by zero-hour contracts were “good for a student”, but claimed that the retailer had “no care in the world for their staff”.

“I’d prefer a five-year prison sentence to another hour working here”

Anonymous Glassdoor user

The user alleged that they “ended up in hospital after a supervisor having a go and me for being ill and not letting me go home an hour early”.

A current Sports Direct employee, who claims to work as a casual sales assistant in Glasgow, wrote: “The staff are miserable and it’s a depressing place to work. The pay isn’t great.”

The worker suggested that gender discrimination was “normalised” and claimed that male employees were allowed to work on shoes and on the tills, but female staff were only allowed to work on the checkouts. Men working on shoes were alleged to earn “so much more commission”.

Another current Sports Direct worker posted in December that staff members at the same level and of the same age were being paid different wages. The employee claimed to be earning £5.13 per hour after working there for two years, but was training new staff with “the same job title” who were earning “anywhere up to £6.50 an hour”.

‘Unfair portrayal’

Sports Direct declined to comment on the specific comments posted on Glassdoor, but reaffirmed the statement it made last month, in which it hit back at an “unfair portrayal” of employment practices.

Within that detailed statement, it insisted that agency workers were employed on the same terms and conditions as they were at other companies, warehouse workers were not “named and shamed” in a performance league table or harangued via a tannoy system and staff were not penalised for being ill.

Sports Direct also said in the statement that Ashley would “personally oversee” a review of agency worker terms and conditions.

And days later it pledged to pay all its workers more than the minimum wage, in a move that will cost it £10m per year.

Glassdoor head of communications for Europe Joe Wiggins said: “What we notice with a great place to work like John Lewis is that staff have pride in the brand, there is almost a family atmosphere, the benefits and pay are good and there is variety in the work.

“You certainly don’t see these traits being highlighted in Glassdoor reviews about Sports Direct.”