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Sports Direct has admitted “serious shortcomings” in working practices at its Shirebrook warehouse in Derbyshire. In a report commissioned by the firm, it apologised for conditions at the warehouse, which have been likened to those of a Victorian workhouse.

It also pledged to offer casual retail staff at least 12 guaranteed hours a week, instead of zero-hour contracts.

But almost all staff at the Shirebrook warehouse are agency workers making them ineligible for the new contract. The firm said it had already commissioned a second review of working practices to monitor progress.

The company has been under mounting pressure to overhaul the way it is run.

Last year an investigation by the Guardian newspaper revealed that the firm’s staff were subject to lengthy security searches which, in some cases, resulted in their pay falling below the legal minimum wage.

And a BBC investigation found ambulances were called out to Sports Direct’s complex at Shirebrook, in Derbyshire, 76 times in two years.

In today’s report, the firm said its failure to pay some staff at its Shirebrook warehouse the minimum wage was “unacceptable but unintentional”, but said it now had a new pay policy in place.

It also said it would suspend its “six strike system” for misdemeanours under which staff were given “a strike” for spending too long in the toilet, excessive chatting or taking a day off sick.

Once an employee had six strikes they were automatically dismissed.

Image captionMike Ashley appeared before a group of MPs in June

The report said Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley “takes ultimate responsibility for any aspects of the working practices that were unsatisfactory”.

Shareholders have called on the firm’s billionaire founder, who also owns Newcastle United FC, to improve both corporate governance and working practices at the company.

In June, in an appearance in front of the Business, Innovation and Skills select committee investigating working conditions at the firm, Mr Ashley admitted the firm had “probably” outgrown his ability to run it.

He said at the time that much of what he’d found out, after starting an internal investigation into how staff were treated at its Shirebrook distribution centre six months ago, was an “unpleasant surprise”.

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