A report carried out by professional services firm RPC found “serious shortcomings” at the company’s warehouse in Shirebrook, Derbyshire, which Sports Direct’s board “deeply regrets and apologises for”.
The retailer will now offer its directly-employed casual employees the option of either a zero-hours contract or a permanent contract with at least 12 guaranteed hours a week.
However, it added that agency workers, who make up the bulk of employees at Shirebrook, will not be eligible for the new terms.
The firm is currently weighing up plans to move ten agency staff a month to permanent jobs.
Sports Direct will also suspend its controversial “six strikes and you’re out” disciplinary procedure and pledged to pay warehouse staff above the National Minimum Wage.
Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley told MPs from the business select committee in June that staff were not paid during security searches at the end of their shift, meaning they took home less than the minimum amount required by law.
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The billionaire, who also owns Newcastle United FC, has faced increasing pressure from shareholder groups in the run-up to today’s annual general meeting (AGM), with calls to overhaul its board of directors and launch an immediate independent review into working conditions at its factories. The company has faced a string of allegations, with the Unite union making clear in its submission to the business select committee that staff were subject to “Victorian” working practices and lived in constant fear of losing their job or facing disciplinary action for “excessive” talking or spending too long in the toilet.
The union said workers had likened conditions to a “gulag” or “labour camp”, with one woman giving birth in the toilet and other female staff making claims of sexual harassment.
The report said that, as a consequence, the human resources team at Shirebrook will be “significantly strengthened” and will include a full-time nurse and a welfare officer.
Several investor groups have also challenged the firm over its corporate governance structure and questioned the amount of power wielded by Mr Ashley, who owns 55 [er cent of the group and is deputy executive chairman.
To address this, Sports Direct said it will instigate an external report evaluating the board later this year and RPC will be instructed to carry out another “360” review of wider corporate governance prior to the 2017 AGM, where it will be presented to shareholders.