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Frasers Group accused of underpayment of warehouse staff

Lauretta Roberts
23 July 2020

Frasers Group has been accused of underpaying warehouse staff after an investigative journalist went undercover at its Shirebrook facility in Derbyshire.

The reporter for The Guardian newspaper claimed that staff are told they must remain on the premises during their unpaid 30-minute rest breaks, which some employment law experts say should count as paid working time. If this is true it would mean workers hourly wage would be £8.20 as opposed to the legal minimum wage of £8.72.

Frasers Group, parent of Sports Direct, House of Fraser, Flannels, USC and Jack Wills, has denied the allegations saying that staff are free to do as they wish during their breaks and are not required to work: “The whole basis for [the Guardian’s] purported investigation is founded on a false premise – that a daily 30-minute rest break should be regarded as constituting working time and so paid. This is clearly not the case.”

Workers at the facility tend to spend their breaks either on a terrace or in the staff canteen and are not required to work but some experts argue that if they are not free to leave the premises then they are not free to do as they wish and should be paid.

The reporter at the facility said he had been told he was not allowed to leave the premises during his break but Frasers Group has said there is no rule to say that workers cannot do so.

Shirebrook was the subject of allegations of breaching the minimum wage five years ago, which resulted in Ashley being called to account for the company's actions in front of MPs. Since that time many improvements have been made such as shifting workers from temporary agency contracts to full time contracts with the retail group and halting the practice of docking 15 minutes of wages every time a worker is one minute late.

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