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All of us have noticed the lack of United Kingdom citizens working in the hospitality industry and the large amounts of job adverts in those venues. Personally, I have zero exposure to such industry and when I was young, I worked at a fruit & veg shop + furniture store on the local high street. Only this and last year I learnt about the industry from a man I worked with for two days plus my wife.

Last year I worked with a man in a cyber security training job from Slovakia and now he has moved outside of the industry. He told many stories about illegal immigrants, gang masters, low pay, people stealing money from their clients (outsourcers), tips nor service charges never going near the staff and a lot more. When it comes to corruption, we tend to think about countries outside of Europe but in reality, corruption in the United Kingdom is just “more polite”.

On to this year, after my wife returned in February after five months abroad, thanks to the Home Office, my wife looked for work. It was her first and hopefully last job in the hospitality industry in England. Finding a job is not hard which is also a warning sign. My wife applied directly to well-known 5* hotel in zone one and did not hear back for weeks. In the meantime, my wife applied for a job through an agency which happened to be at the same hotel.

Terms - Verbally:
  • £13 per hour
  • Eight hours a day
  • Lunch break
  • Tips paid after three months
  • Holiday pay
  • State pension
Terms - Contract
  • Lower than £13 per hour – I am sure a 5* hotel can afford more than this
  • No mention of set days, how many hours per day or shifts
  • Lunch break for 30m is unpaid
  • No mention of tips
  • Holiday pay kicks in after three months – not sure how legal this is
  • State pension starts after three months – edge of the law

There were two shifts, 7am – 3pm or 3pm – 11pm. The shifts varied by the day, would change at the last minute and the off days were variable. How can you plan when you do not know what shift you are on? Perhaps it is fine for a single person but not a married couple who struggle to see each other.

The first day came and my wife commented about the large changing rooms used by females throughout all hotel departments. A day later and her bag went walkies since my wife was given no locker. Security did not care, and the management did not care also, and blamed it on her. Till the end of her tenure (max. five weeks) my wife got no locker and in time placed her belongings with the manager. More about the manager later.

The next day the bag was mysteriously found with nothing taken. Let’s imagine a hotel guests’ bag was stolen. The hotels staff would search every nook & cranny to find it. Who cares about disposable staff it seems.

On chatting to other agency workers, many said tips are not paid out and being it is not in the contract what can you do? The crooked agency was probably pocketing them. Zero of the agency workers were from the UK and the same applied to permanent staff. Apart from the top management, none of the general staff were born in the UK.

Within her short tenure, on 4-5 occasions my wife was sent home a few hours early and guess what? Without pay. Not nice this maybe, I do work. Let’s imagine it was a single man or woman with rent, bills and food to pay for. £250 would put that individual into difficulty. Another thing, if the shift falls on a Sunday the trains do not start earlier enough so I had to wake up after 5AM to give her a lift, return home and try to sleep again.

Before the “straw which broke the camel’s back”, the job was taking its toll on myself and my wife. Let’s switch to the manage. He has/had worked at the hotel for over six years and was likely never challenged till now. The manager was not a nice man and on top of being sent home early without pay the main issue was… high heels for females. Seems a bit pre-2000?

A quick search on this topic suggests it is illegal, on the edge of the law and unethical. A quote from the Government Ethics Office says, “It is likely to be unlawful under the Equality Act 2010 for employers to require women to wear high heels, with the discomfort or health issues that may entail, and as there is no male equivalent.” One way around this is to insist men and woman have to wear high heels!

My wife and other females were being complained to for removing high heels despite feet & back pain over the 8hr shift. This happened on more than two occasions and my wife would say to the manager I am in pain. Manager reply: if you want to work here, follow my rules. Being that my wife has no experience of working in the west she did not know the rules. All of the other staff are not from the UK so probably also do not know the employment laws of the land.

The other issue is the staff under the restaurant manager likely feared for their jobs so would never answer back. That kept happening and my wife would ask for a lift back from the nearby station due to the pain she was in. Enough is enough! Option, 1. Call up my friends at GB News or talkRADIO who would love the story about a top end hotel. 2. Do OSINT research on the board of management. I did the latter and left the first option as a backup.

With not too much research I found out the name of the general manager and the group HR director. Finding their email address was a little fiddly but I found two working email addresses. I sent the HR director an email and received a reply within a few hours – only one response was received. The response said this is against policy, all staff and agencies know the rules….

At a similar time, my wife put her notice in to the agency and the agency asked why. The agencies reply was you knew the dress code before you signed up – erh no.

Hospitality industry, if you want to fight the staff storage, increase pay and the treatment of staff.

Goodbye hospitality for my wife forever. Ohh, the next time you think about raising your voice to a F&B worker do think about how they are treated please.