Sports Direct defends treatment of workers

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UNDER-FIRE retailer Sports Direct defended its treatment of workers amid claims it puts staff at its warehouse through “rigorous” searches and pays less than the minimum wage.

The group, which is controlled by Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley, faces allegations claiming it forces compulsory unpaid searches on staff as they leave, while also docking wages for clocking in just one minute late.

Sports Direct chairman Keith Hellawell admitted the group searched staff, but said it had recently cut back on the time it takes. He also hit back at claims that the majority of staff are on “zero hours” contracts.

The claims follow a storm of protest from trade unions over staff treatment at the group’s annual shareholder meeting in September, when claims over staff searches first emerged.

The latest controversy came as Sports Direct ​said it is looking forward to 2016 with confidence ahead of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and the 2016 European Football Championships in which England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland will be competing.

​The group reported​ a 7.6 per cent rise in underlying earnings for the first half, helped by the roll-out of large format city centre stores, and said it is confident of meeting target for the year.

The ​firm posted underlying earnings of ​£​218.5​m and said it ​is on track to achieve its full-year ambition of ​£​420​m.

Chief executive Dave Forsey said:​ ​“The ​g​roup has delivered another excellent set of result, particularly given the strong comparable sales generated in the build up to the FIFA 2014 World Cup and after a generally mixed summer for the retail sector.”