Following concerns raised by a job hunter about a local business exploiting young workers, (Delicious Desserts, New Road Kidderminster) and who is expecting new staff to work for free for 7 days, Wyre Forest Labour called for a “Fair Pay Employer’s Charter”.

A local job hunter had alerted Labour after spotting the advert on a national recruitment website, and which was expecting applicants to work for free for 7 days, and often late hours, whilst being ‘trained’. The job hunter who wishes to remain anonymous because it might harm her chances of getting work, said she’d told us because she herself is sick and tired of low pay and working for other exploitive employers in the District.

Stephen Brown, Wyre Forest Media Spokesperson said “It is totally wrong, and unlawful, for any employer to use exploitative practices like this. Whatever way you dress it up, it’s taking advantage of vulnerable workers, usually very young, and in this case most certainly teenagers, who are desperate to find work. How would this employer feel, or anyone, if their son or daughter was being treated this way? We know that this isn’t the first time this employer has tried this trick to get free work done. But how many others are at it, and contributing to Wyre Forest’s low pay ‘gig’ economy?”

Following an investigation by Wyre Forest Labour, it was found that Delicious Desserts has form. An ex-employee named Chloe, aged 16, has since been in touch and confirmed the practice. She and her colleagues were also prevented from taking breaks, again, unlawfully.  Wyre Forest Labour will be looking at this matter carefully, and will offer what support it can to any person employed by Delicious Desserts to see if there is a case to take to an Employment Tribunal. Anyone affected should contact us.

Stephen Brown continued by saying “I’d urge the business to stop this practice, treat their staff fairly and with dignity, and comply with the law. Wyre Forest Labour is quite prepared to start calling out bad employers who break the law and campaign on it. We’d also happily champion businesses who engage in good employment practice. Maybe it’s time for a Wyre Forest Charter of ‘fair pay employers’?”

ACAS guidance and the law is very clear on such work related training, it has to be paid. There can however be exceptions with trial shifts where agreed between the parties, but this should last no more than a couple of hours. 

Stephen Brown added “It is nevertheless the view of Wyre Forest Labour that even trial shifts are exploitative. Work is work and it should be paid for. No form of employment exploitation is acceptable. How can we ever hope to build trust between employers and workers and develop our economy, offer hope to young people, or build cohesive communities based on an exploitative economy? The Tories have created this problem with their erosion of worker’s rights, attacks on trade unions, and their austerity agenda. Our local Tory MP, Mark Garnier, with his votes in Parliament and endless faux sympathy about low pay being a problem in Wyre Forest has helped create this environment. It should not surprise anyone that some employers then see exploitation as both normal and acceptable. It’s an awful situation for workers, including vulnerable young people. We have to turn back the dial on this and establish fairer practices”

Chloe’s Story:

Chloe said the person who interviewed her was called ‘Abz’, a “co-owner” of the business.
When she first went for the job, Abz didn’t tell her that she wouldn’t be paid during training, and in fact, told her that training would be for one day and if she was kept on she would be paid. That promise turned out to be a lie. After she completed her first day at work (unpaid), she was then told 4 more days training were needed from her. Her first shift was 4:30 to 10:30pm which is a late finish for a 16 year old girl in the centre of town, and she was only able to finish then because her Mum got in touch as she was sat outside waiting to give her a lift home, asking where her daughter was. Chloe said it is mainly all 16-17 year olds working there, and she was actually trained by a girl of the same age who is in her year at school. Meanwhile, the Co-owner ‘manager’ didn’t train her and spent his time chatting/not working and would shout at her if she made orders incorrectly. During her ‘training’ shifts, she made orders and shadowed the other 16 year old girl training her. Chloe wasn’t allowed any breaks, and two staff working with her and who started their shift earlier and later then her, were timed a maximum of 2 minutes for a cigarette break. As the late shifts clashed with her GCSEs, Chloe contacted the Co-owner manager to terminate working there and she was told this was “typical of her” and that he would be “happy for you to quit”.

It is quite clear this was actual work, not even a trial shift, and is a breach of the minimum wage regulations. It is also a breach of the EU Working Time Directive, especially so for Chloe, because as a young worker she should be afforded additional breaks protection.

Employer Response:

Wyre Forest Labour’s Secretary, Ben Davies, contacted the owner, who had this to say: 

“Hi Ben, thanks for asking me about 7 days unpaid training and we would like to mention that an inexperienced person would not make any pudding for a customer during training as we are different to other businesses and it’s not ‘productive’ work. We prefer an experienced employee but also encourage an inexperienced person and give them a chance to start their career without having experience in the dessert field. We know they would not be very expert after 7 days training but at least they can work up to our required standard with minimum supervision and do the practice during training because new staff waste food and the time of senior staff. Making desserts is an art and we don’t let a trainee staff serve our valuable customers ………We used to start paying from the first day but this policy was misused as some of the inexperienced persons left us after few days for slightly better wages soon after they finished training with us. Some of our trainee staff started their wages after 4 days as they learnt quickly.”

Ben Davies said “This is a clear case of a local business exploiting young workers for their labour, promising pay, and then requiring additional shifts. This is despite workers generating money for the business by making orders for customers and in total contradiction to what the owner claims and said to me. Chloe’s experience is not unique and you wonder just what the turnover of staff actually is in this business. The public, who now know about this, may well vote with their feet. It’s clearly what the workers are doing because they’re fed up with being taken advantage of. It’s actually also quite unacceptable that the owner uses the excuse that trainee’s waste food, and the time of senior staff whilst learning the job. It’s a job he wants doing and is making money out of. Worse still, that he moans about staff leaving for better pay elsewhere, or that they will get paid after working for 4 days for free like it’s somehow acceptable. How long will it be before the owner realises it’s all very counter productive and isn’t doing him or his business any good?”

Stephen Brown finished by saying “We know the economic climate for business is tough, especially for small and start-up ventures. However, exploiting workers, particularly young workers, and not paying them in this way is not, and never will be, the answer. Labour would seek to reverse the regressive Tory laws on worker’s rights and trade unions, and offer full protection from day one, as well as a £10per hour minimum wage. We are also concerned that post Brexit, EU laws that protect our workers, like the Working Time Directive, will be scrapped by the Tories. They’ve already threatened it. We’d reverse any such Tory changes to ensure worker’s keep their rights. Labour would also help support business with a regional development bank to ensure they get the finance they need to develop their business. There has to be mutual respect and cooperation between workers, employers, and the communities they serve. Otherwise, it’s a race to the bottom that helps no one. Labour will create an economy that works for the many, not the few.”

Stephen Brown

Wyre Forest Labour Party

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