Leigh Day files claim against Sports Direct over zero hours

Leigh Day has filed an employment tribunal claim on behalf of a Sports Direct employee employed on a controversial ‘zero hours’ contract.

elizabeth george leigh day
Elizabeth George

The claim has been launched on behalf of Croydon employee Zahera Gabriel-Abraham, with the financial backing of lobbying group 38 Degrees. Gabriel-Abraham took a job at Sports Direct in October 2012 as a part-time sales assistant.

Leigh Day is challenging the legality of the company’s treatment of its part-time workforce, who are ineligible for the company’s bonus share scheme announced in July. The firm is also claiming that Sports Direct’s 20,000 part-time staff are denied paid annual leave, sick pay and other bonuses available to full-time staff and are therefore treated less favourably.

Gabriel-Abraham’s claim also alleges indirect sex discrimination, claiming that the company’s working practices discriminate against women, and also that Sports Direct is in breach of working time regulations.

Leigh Day employment barrister Elizabeth George is leading the case alongside Cloisters’ David Massarella. The pair most recently teamed up to successfully bring a pregnancy discrimination claim for former Travers Smith trainee Katie Tantum (17 May 2013).

George said in a statement: “We are not arguing that employers cannot have genuine flexible contracts, but the contract under which Ms Gabriel-Abraham worked, and which all SportsDirect.com 20,000 part-time employees appear to be working, has no flexibility at all for those people who sign them.  

“There was no practical difference between the obligations put on my client by the company and those placed on full-time staff. Casual workers traditionally supplement an employer’s salaried staff, to be called upon when cover is needed or demand is high. In return for not having the security of knowing when you might work you have the benefit of being able to choose when you work. Without that choice you are not a casual worker you are just a worker with no job security.

“The ‘casual’ part-time employees in this case are employees in the conventional sense and denying them their paid holidays, sick pay and bonuses is unlawful.”