Image: Parliament TV Image: Parliament TV

A group of MPs have accused Sports Direct of operating its warehouses like Victorian workhouses where staff are not treated like humans.

Ian Wright, the committee chair, described the conditions as "closer to that of a Victorian workhouse than that of a modern, reputable High Street retailer".

In one extreme case, Union officials told the Business, Innovation and Skills committee that one female worker at the warehouse in Derbyshire gave birth in the toilets because she feared she would be fired for needing time off work.

Late last year, an investigation by The Guardian found that temporary workers were effectively being paid less than minimum wage after being forced to go through such strict security measures when leaving for the day. The investigation also found that workers who turned up even a few minutes late, or were supposedly underperforming were shamed over the tannoy system.

With Sports Direct a regular zero-hours or temporary contract employer, there have even been allegations of some managers offering permanent contracts in exchange for sexual favours.

In a statement responding to the comments made by the committee, Sports Direct said it treats all workers "with dignity and respect".

The committee called for founder and chief executive Mike Ashley to be held accountable for the company's failings.

"It's seems incredible that Mike Ashley, who visits the warehouse at least once a week, was unaware of these appalling practices," Mr Wright said.

"This suggests Mr Ashley was turning a blind eye to conditions at Sports Direct in the interests of maximising profits or that there are serious corporate governance failings which left him out of the loop in spite of all the evidence."

Sports Direct said in a statement: "We will study the contents of the committee's report very carefully.

"It is our policy to treat all our people with dignity and respect.

"We are pleased to see that the committee has recognised Mike Ashley's commitment to engage in addressing any shortcomings in the working practices at Sports Direct."