While around 2,000 full-time Sports Direct workers are on the cusp of claiming a £75,000 share windfall, Sports Direct also employ an army of 20,000 part-time workers with no holiday pay, sick pay and little idea of how many hours they need to work each week.

The practice is known as zero hour contacts - and it's coming to a workplace near you.


90% of staff on 'Zero Hours'

The Guardian claims Sports Direct deploys an on-demand zero-hour contract - a contract where you never know how much work you'll get in any one week or month beforehand - which have been criticised for causing stress and uncertainty.

The practice also helps many companies avoid going to temp agencies - and higher staff fees. "It would be much better for Sports Direct to instead of offering bonus gimmicks, they should offer their staff the security of proper contracts," Andy Sawford, Labour MP for Corby told the left-centre national.

"The zero-hours contracts are highly exploitative and suit the company because it keeps people in a fragile state where they are at the beck and call of their employers."

'Unsatisfactory performance' may cost you

There's also unhappiness about excluding some staff from Sports Direct's employee share scheme as any "participant who is determined to be an unsatisfactory performer" won't snap up the new £75,000 bonus shares. But 'unsatisfactory performance' is not clearly defined by the company.

The government is apparently reviewing zero-hour contracts. It's unlikely though that Business Secretary Vince Cable will ban them. But expect some fiddling at the edges with a bit more protection offered, or some restrictions in place.

The Trades Union Congress has called for a blanket ban. These type of contracts also exist in the service industry. For example, it's thought 300,000 workers in the care sector alone are now on zero-hour contracts. The practice is also creeping into higher education, legal services, market research and journalism.

Labour to challenge?

"This rise in zero hours working," says TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady, "is bad for employees and also for service users, many of whom are vulnerable adults. People want to see the same person whether it's their regular carer or college tutor - something that is severely hindered by zero hours contracts."

However, it is an area where Labour could show some mettle - if it chooses to. What do you think? Are zero-hour contracts modern-day, 24/7 slavery? Or a reflection of how modern companies work in a hop-on, hop-off global economy?


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