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  • FIRST POST
    • stojio
    • By stojio 16th Oct 16, 12:51 AM
    • 107Posts
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    stojio
    Citizen's advice question - Is My Friend Being Exploited at Work?
    • #1
    • 16th Oct 16, 12:51 AM
    Citizen's advice question - Is My Friend Being Exploited at Work? 16th Oct 16 at 12:51 AM
    Hello folks

    I'm posting on behalf of a friend of mine as things have gone too far.

    My friend is an EU citizen and has been employed for a year and a half as a chef (in a highly rated upmarket local restaurant).

    She is currently receiving £18000 a year as a salary regardless of hours worked (this started at 16500 but changed to 18k in May).
    She works between 60 and 70 hours a week, spread over 5 days.
    Often she does not get a lunch break and has to eat whilst working.
    She has never signed nor been given a contract of employment.
    She feels highly pressured at work, they have even called her GP's office when she was there recently to try and get information about her, presumably to see if she really was at the GP. The GP has signed her off for a week with stress and another physical issue which is not being helped by her work situation. This is the second time she has been off sick with them - the first time was a single day off sick over a year ago.

    Now for a barrage of questions, apologies in advance! I'm just wondering what sort of situation this may be classed as legally?
    Would there be any point in my friend contacting a solicitor about this? If so, what kind of action would you think she could take?
    Is there a specific organisation she should contact?
    On face value does this sound like a civil issue or is there any way it could be a criminal issue?
    Should she contact a union (I have no idea how these things work)
    And what would you do if you or a loved one was in this situation?

    Most importantly perhaps, is this just part and parcel of the catering industry that she should either accept or move away from?

    Many thanks in advance for your help as always folks.
    Last edited by stojio; 16-10-2016 at 12:54 AM.
Page 1
    • DomRavioli
    • By DomRavioli 16th Oct 16, 1:15 AM
    • 2,853 Posts
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    DomRavioli
    • #2
    • 16th Oct 16, 1:15 AM
    • #2
    • 16th Oct 16, 1:15 AM
    Hello folks

    I'm posting on behalf of a friend of mine as things have gone too far.

    My friend is an EU citizen and has been employed for a year and a half as a chef (in a highly rated upmarket local restaurant).

    She is currently receiving £18000 a year as a salary regardless of hours worked (this started at 16500 but changed to 18k in May).
    She works between 60 and 70 hours a week, spread over 5 days.
    Often she does not get a lunch break and has to eat whilst working. Very normal when working as a chef.
    She has never signed nor been given a contract of employment.That depends on the type of employment she has - not all employees have a written contract.
    She feels highly pressured at work, they have even called her GP's office when she was there recently to try and get information about her, presumably to see if she really was at the GP. The GP has signed her off for a week with stress and another physical issue which is not being helped by her work situation. This is the second time she has been off sick with them - the first time was a single day off sick over a year ago. So she has been off sick, and the employer contacted the GP. Did they ask for your "friend's" permission?

    Now for a barrage of questions, apologies in advance! I'm just wondering what sort of situation this may be classed as legally?
    Would there be any point in my friend contacting a solicitor about this? If so, what kind of action would you think she could take?
    Is there a specific organisation she should contact?
    On face value does this sound like a civil issue or is there any way it could be a criminal issue?
    Should she contact a union (I have no idea how these things work)
    And what would you do if you or a loved one was in this situation?

    Most importantly perhaps, is this just part and parcel of the catering industry that she should either accept or move away from?

    Many thanks in advance for your help as always folks.
    Originally posted by stojio
    Seems like you've left out a lot of information.

    Your friend needs to seek advice from somewhere like the CAB with ALL the material facts. Best to come first hand than through a "friend".
    Observe, Adapt, Overcome.
    SPC 2015 #497
    • stojio
    • By stojio 16th Oct 16, 1:38 AM
    • 107 Posts
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    stojio
    • #3
    • 16th Oct 16, 1:38 AM
    • #3
    • 16th Oct 16, 1:38 AM
    Thanks for your reply, I'm aware that this is sparse on information and that I'm probably confusing the issue with irrelevant info as well. At the moment I'm just looking for some general discussion about it, posting it on this forum as a first step before CAB etc.

    Taking out the lunch situation, which admittedly yes is very normal when working as a chef, she is being paid less than minimum wage it seems.

    No they didn't ask for permission to contact her GP and the GP didn't give them any information. They called the GPs office while she was sitting in the GPs office waiting for her appointment.

    I don't know what kind of employment she has. She has been told on numerous occasions that she has a contract and would get a copy of it but it has never been provided.

    This person is actually my friend by the way, not sure what a "friend" is haha! No need for quote marks
    • stojio
    • By stojio 16th Oct 16, 2:35 AM
    • 107 Posts
    • 53 Thanks
    stojio
    • #4
    • 16th Oct 16, 2:35 AM
    • #4
    • 16th Oct 16, 2:35 AM
    Thanks for your reply! She is from the EU but lives and works in the UK. Her nationality doesn't affect the minimum wage she is entitled to working in the UK. She is on an £18000 a year salary because she has the skills and qualifications for that. It's the 60 -70 hours a week which are the main problem, and her lack of a contract which stops her taking the first step to look into it.

    Surprisingly, she does appear to be on the books - she gets payslips which show tax and NI paid but they do not show hours worked.

    She is not a member of any union just now or I wouldn't be asking if she should join one :P I know nothing at all about unions, as I am not part of one myself, and wondered if it would be a worthwhile avenue for her to look into.

    I'm not asking for a reason to come up with legal action at all, I'm asking if it's something she can consider if she is being paid under minimum wage, and what channels are available to do it if it is the case - and whilst I'm sure you would charge me if you were a solicitor, and I would pay you, this is in fact a free forum about money saving that we're using As you rightly point out, I do not know the law here, which is why I decided to hit up the trusty MSE forum to see if any advice could be given before going to CAB.

    Everyone has to start somewhere when they're trying to find out information about legal or confusing financial situations, and this place is where I start more often than not
    • GlasweJen
    • By GlasweJen 16th Oct 16, 8:54 AM
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    GlasweJen
    • #5
    • 16th Oct 16, 8:54 AM
    • #5
    • 16th Oct 16, 8:54 AM
    My brother did similar hours as a chef, he also had the chef lifestyle of working at one place for 6 months then moving on up the ladder at the next place.

    He started off as a dessert chef, moved up to pastry and ended his career as the second chef in the kitchen (no idea what that's called but head chef if the head is off). He eventually left the profession and went back into education as he felt being a run of the mill chef in a restaurant is a young mans game and unless he was moving into running a restaurant his life would never calm down.

    A lot of his shifts "split", in pastry he would be at the restaurant at 5am to prep the doughs and breads, go home when done and then return later to bake them off and prepare afternoon teas. If another chef was in and performing a skill my brother wanted to learn he would hang about and get the other chef to teach him, I understand that this is standard.

    On top of the mad hours he was at college doing catering certificates during parts of his training.

    Anyway i digress, what you've described seems normal for a chef and your friend needs to talk to other chefs and get recommended for better jobs in other restaurants. Conditions will improve in the middle then get tougher again at the top.
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    • sangie595
    • By sangie595 16th Oct 16, 11:42 AM
    • 2,735 Posts
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    sangie595
    • #6
    • 16th Oct 16, 11:42 AM
    • #6
    • 16th Oct 16, 11:42 AM
    I'm sure it is part and parcel of the industry. It always will be when people accept it. The wage quoted here for these hours is unlawful - well below the living wage. That applies to everyone, including people from the EU, who are covered by the same legislation as UK born people. So the argument that it is " a good wage for someone from the EU " is utter rubbish. It's an unlawful wage for anyone who is routinely working 60+ hours. But the OP also has no employment protection, with only 18 months service.

    Breaches of minimum wage laws can be reported anonymously to the hot line, but that doesn't mean that the employer won't guess who reported them, or take it out on everyone.
    • TELLIT01
    • By TELLIT01 16th Oct 16, 12:36 PM
    • 2,631 Posts
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    TELLIT01
    • #7
    • 16th Oct 16, 12:36 PM
    • #7
    • 16th Oct 16, 12:36 PM
    But the OP also has no employment protection, with only 18 months service.

    Breaches of minimum wage laws can be reported anonymously to the hot line, but that doesn't mean that the employer won't guess who reported them, or take it out on everyone.
    Originally posted by sangie595
    So is the suggestion the the employee does nothing and therefore the employer continues to flout minimum wage legislation. It seems to suggest that employers can pay what they want to those with less than 2 years employment.
    • sangie595
    • By sangie595 16th Oct 16, 1:32 PM
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    sangie595
    • #8
    • 16th Oct 16, 1:32 PM
    • #8
    • 16th Oct 16, 1:32 PM
    So is the suggestion the the employee does nothing and therefore the employer continues to flout minimum wage legislation. It seems to suggest that employers can pay what they want to those with less than 2 years employment.
    Originally posted by TELLIT01
    No, of course it isn't. And you know that I didn't say or suggest that. What I did was point out the facts. What the OP decides to do with those facts - or, in fact, the OP's friend - is something they must decide. Would you prefer that I say "Report them immediately, there are no consequences"?

    If you want to have a go at someone, why not pick on those saying that they should be grateful to have such a good (unlawful) wage because they come from the EU? Instead of someone actually trying to offer balanced advice?

    And your advice is.....??
    • sangie595
    • By sangie595 16th Oct 16, 1:35 PM
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    sangie595
    • #9
    • 16th Oct 16, 1:35 PM
    • #9
    • 16th Oct 16, 1:35 PM
    Thanks for providing the link - I was on the tablet earlier, and I have just never totally mastered the finer art of cutting and pasting links on it!

    TBH if the OP's friend is going after back pay (and assuming they have evidence of the hours worked) I would write the strongly worded letter myself (plenty of templates available and people here - or some people here - would help) saving the cost of a solicitor and then go through with the threat of legal action, which will be much cheaper than the solicitor!
    Last edited by MSE ForumTeam5; 16-10-2016 at 10:53 PM. Reason: Quoting edited post
    • Gpod
    • By Gpod 16th Oct 16, 1:43 PM
    • 25 Posts
    • 14 Thanks
    Gpod
    ...I do not know the law here, which is why I decided to hit up the trusty MSE forum to see if any advice could be given before going to CAB.
    Originally posted by stojio
    CAB will probably signpost you to ACAS.

    http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=1461
    • stojio
    • By stojio 16th Oct 16, 2:22 PM
    • 107 Posts
    • 53 Thanks
    stojio
    Thank for all the replies, much appreciated. Feel like I have something to go on.

    I do get the argument that it's run of the mill stuff for the industry and I think she would accept that more if it was a staff-wide issue, but she is the only member of the kitchen team made to do these hours. I probably should have mentioned that as well.
    • sangie595
    • By sangie595 16th Oct 16, 2:32 PM
    • 2,735 Posts
    • 4,276 Thanks
    sangie595
    Thank for all the replies, much appreciated. Feel like I have something to go on.

    I do get the argument that it's run of the mill stuff for the industry and I think she would accept that more if it was a staff-wide issue, but she is the only member of the kitchen team made to do these hours. I probably should have mentioned that as well.
    Originally posted by stojio
    Or possibly, the only one daft enough to do those hours? How is she "made" to do the hours? At gunpoint? You see, this is where things come to a head - if you do things and never say no, and never challenge back, then of course an employer is going to push. But, as I said, pushing back doesn't mean there are no risks involved in doing that. In the end you have to decide what you are willing to accept and what you aren't.
    • stojio
    • By stojio 16th Oct 16, 4:18 PM
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    stojio
    There is no need to point a gun at someone's head in order to make them feel like they must do the hours their boss tells them to in order to pay their rent and their bills, especially when they're not sure where to turn to get help.

    So maybe she is "daft" and maybe she should have stood up for herself more, but she felt unable to at the time, and now she trying to see what, if any, help is available.
    Last edited by stojio; 16-10-2016 at 4:23 PM.
    • sangie595
    • By sangie595 16th Oct 16, 4:34 PM
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    • 4,276 Thanks
    sangie595
    There is no need to point a gun at someone's head in order to make them feel like they must do the hours their boss tells them to in order to pay their rent and their bills, especially when they're not sure where to turn to get help.

    So maybe she is "daft" and maybe she should have stood up for herself more, but she felt unable to at the time, and now she trying to see what, if any, help is available.
    Originally posted by stojio
    And that is the point I have been making throughout. There is no "help" in that sense. She will have to do something herself. I don't underestimate the way that employers can push you into things. So that isn't a criticism. But in the end, if there isn't real "force" at work, then she is agreeing, no matter how reluctantly. But whatever she does, it is she who does it. There isn't anyone to rescue her. Even if she joined a union, it would still be her on the firing line.

    As I said to Tellit01, I am not suggesting that she do nothing. But she must be aware of all points. She has few employment rights, and even if she did have them, if the employer is reported for breaking minimum wage regulations, for example, tracking it down to her is not going to be rocket science. Even if someone else reports it. So she must decide what risk she is prepared to take, if any. And if she can't take that risk, then she needs to keep quiet and just find another job.
    • xapprenticex
    • By xapprenticex 16th Oct 16, 4:45 PM
    • 692 Posts
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    xapprenticex
    When you think about it EVERYBODY is being exploited at work, it's what we sign up for, to be used/exploited to benefit an organisation in return for money, the issue is to what degree you are exploited.
    • stojio
    • By stojio 16th Oct 16, 6:04 PM
    • 107 Posts
    • 53 Thanks
    stojio
    And that is the point I have been making throughout. There is no "help" in that sense. She will have to do something herself. I don't underestimate the way that employers can push you into things. So that isn't a criticism. But in the end, if there isn't real "force" at work, then she is agreeing, no matter how reluctantly. But whatever she does, it is she who does it. There isn't anyone to rescue her. Even if she joined a union, it would still be her on the firing line.

    As I said to Tellit01, I am not suggesting that she do nothing. But she must be aware of all points. She has few employment rights, and even if she did have them, if the employer is reported for breaking minimum wage regulations, for example, tracking it down to her is not going to be rocket science. Even if someone else reports it. So she must decide what risk she is prepared to take, if any. And if she can't take that risk, then she needs to keep quiet and just find another job.
    Originally posted by sangie595
    She's not asking to be "rescued" She's trying to find out what her rights are so she can make an educated decision

    You can certainly can make people do things without physically forcing them to do them and it doesn't mean they have 'agreed' to it. For example, controlling and coercive behaviour (without violence or explicit threats) in intimate relationships is a criminal offence - would you say a victim of such behaviour is in agreement because they're not being physically forced? This is a different situation but the same principle of force/agreement applies - she is not being physically forced into anything but is certainly not in open agreement with the situation. She is doing 60 - 70 hours a week for no extra pay out of the fear of being fired and losing her income.

    As for the fact she is in the firing line, she's aware of this and ready to roll the dice on that one, it's just that up until now she has been unsure of her rights.
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