EXECUTIVE SUMMARY This report describes the findings of a qualitative research project, The Experience of Ethnic Minority and Migrant Workers in the Hotel and Catering Industry: Routes to Support and Advice on Workplace Problems, funded by the European Social Fund and Acas and carried out by the Working Lives Research Institute at London Metropolitan University.
The research provides evidence of the conditions faced by ethnic minority and migrant workers in the hotel and restaurant sector, an industry already known for its harsh working environment. In-depth interviews with 50 ethnic minority and migrant workers in London, the West Midlands and the South West were carried out between May 2005 and May 2006. In addition, interviews were held with key informants to provide contextual information on features and trends within the sector. The key findings of the research are summarised here.
Working conditions in hotels and restaurants • Cash-in-hand, undeclared or under-declared, and illegal working was found among the ethnic minority and migrant restaurant workers interviewed, and affected both employment conditions and rates of pay. This was prevalent in small, ethnic minority-owned restaurants, usually employing members of the same ethnic group. The National Minimum Wage (NMW) was the rate commonly paid to basic grade staff, including bar and restaurant staff, hotel porters and housekeeping staff, particularly outside of London.
The research also found a high incidence of flat rate payments per shift or per week, regardless of hours worked, below the NMW, often paid cash-in-hand. Long hours working was a further feature. Full-time workers did a minimum 40-hour week, with 50 to 60 hours a week being common, particularly in restaurants. Late night working, or until the last customer left, was often expected without extra pay. Some felt that they had no life outside work due to the long hours demanded by the job. In some instances, individuals had several jobs to earn money to support family or send back home. There was low awareness of holiday and leave entitlements.
Very few workers received more than the statutory entitlement to four weeks’ holiday. Some reported getting no paid holidays or receiving less than the legal minimum, and there was generally low awareness of holiday entitlement. In small restaurants there was sometimes an informal policy of two weeks’ leave. It was common for workers to have received no written statements of particulars or contracts. This was found among both informally and legitimately employed workers, and was a source of anxiety for several.
There were poor perceptions of job security in the sector. Few workers felt secure in their employment, often feeling they could be sacked on the spot, particularly those working informally. Some longer-term workers in regular employment were aware that increasing use of casual and agency staff meant that their jobs were not secure. Training available to migrant workers, particularly in restaurants, was minimal, usually only in basic health and safety, hygiene or fire procedures. In some hotels, however, managers had recognised the neglect of training in the past and were offering staff the chance to pursue National Vocational Qualifications.
Problems at work • There was a high degree of acceptance of the poor working conditions in the sector among interviewees, with issues such as low pay, long hours, unpaid overtime and poor health and safety standards often not perceived as particular “problems” but rather viewed as the nature of work in the sector. Where problems were identified these related to: pay; long working hours; workload; getting time off; bullying and verbal abuse, including racial harassment; problems getting on with colleagues; English language skills; and theft of property from work. Bullying and verbal abuse was common, particularly in kitchens where chefs were often known as bullies, but this was accepted by some as “just the mentality of the kitchen”.
Sometimes the abuse had a racial element, with “bloody foreigner” used as a term of abuse. Racist abuse from restaurant customers was also regularly suffered by some waiters. In one hotel, several staff had experienced bullying from a manager, resulting in time off sick with stress. Staff believed there was an ulterior motive of trying to get rid of long-serving employees and replacing them with cheaper casual staff. Opportunities for promotion were felt by several interviewees to be inhibited by discrimination on grounds of race, ethnicity, nationality or age, as well as the limitations imposed by work permit or visa rules.
Some long-term workers felt they had been overlooked for promotion, with their age then compounding the problem as employers looked for younger staff to promote and develop. Where employees saw that they had opportunities to progress, this was due to the support of a manager. Opportunities were further limited by employer presumptions about the suitability of staff for “front-of-house” jobs, such as reception or waiter positions, based on ethnicity, gender and age. Some employers expressed preferences for white staff, or a “balance” of white and non-white front-of house staff, on the grounds that it was what their customers wanted. The research found that such racial stereotyping was expressed openly in this sector in a way that may not be acceptable in other sectors.
In the main, interviewees did not raise health and safety concerns when discussing problems at work, reflecting an acceptance of the hazards of this type of work. However many issues did arise during the course of interviews, which included: burns and working in hot kitchens; working in a confined space; back and shoulder pains; and tiredness from long working hours and heavy workload. Often, responsibility for health and safety, such as avoiding burns, was seen as primarily belonging to the employee and not the employer. Most workers believed that little could be done to tackle the problems that they were having at work, or felt that the only solution was to leave the job. A handful of workers had taken action to resolve their problems at work, either by raising concerns with their manager, or seeking outside support or advice.
Support, advice and awareness of rights • Workers felt poorly informed about employment rights in the UK, and had little idea of where to get information if they needed it. Many also were unsure about aspects of their own particular terms and conditions of employment, which was related to a lack of written information. As might be expected, those who had been in the UK for a longer time, and the small number who were members of a trade union, felt better informed about their rights at work.
Trade unions had been a valuable source of support for a small number of interviewees, but for most workers, unions simply did not feature in their experience of work. But despite the difficulties of organising in the sector, including high staff turnover, no culture of trade unionism and employers that are hostile to trade unions, union membership was growing in one London hotel and catering branch. This was the result of recruitment campaigns that included information in several languages. Some interviewees either had, or would, seek support from community organisations about problems at work.
However, there was a variation in the level of community support available in the three regions, with London and the West Midlands having established organisations representing a variety of ethnic groups, but such structures were much less well developed in the South West. Seeking support and advice through community organisations can also be a double-edged sword for those who work for employers within the same ethnic community, with some fearing that if they sought advice, word would get around and they would have problems getting work in future.
Of the small number of workers who had sought support for problems at work, Citizen’s Advice, Acas and a specific project for service workers (no longer in existence) had been used. While a small number were aware of Citizen’s Advice, a couple thought that the service excluded them because of its name, which implied to them that it was for British citizens only.
Conclusions and recommendations • While many of the working conditions and problems highlighted in this report are common to workers in the sector, the research found several features that serve to differentiate the experience of ethnic minority and migrant workers: immigration status; working in the informal sector; discrimination in the labour market and employment; and low expectations which increase tolerance of poor working conditions.
For ethnic minority and migrant workers the difficulties in raising and resolving problems relate both to their own individual vulnerability and characteristics of work in the sector. Recent migrant workers may have limited English language skills and little or no knowledge of UK employment rights and support structures, factors that compound the difficulties of addressing problems in the sector.
These include: the perception that there is a ready supply of labour to replace workers who complain; a lack of union organisation; a culture of poor personnel practice, such as minimal training and provision of information; and the informal nature of much employment obtained by ethnic minority and migrant workers in the sector. There appeared also to be a lack of monitoring or enforcement of employers’ compliance with employment legislation in this sector. To understand the different experiences and motivations for ethnic minority and migrant workers working in hotels and restaurants, the research developed a typology of strategies that highlights at one end how some individuals feel they are acting strategically in relation to their work choices, whereas at the other, economic factors and limitations play a greater role in determining their choices.
The strategies move from Career progression through Broadening opportunities and Stepping stone to Pragmatic acceptance and No alternative. The research makes a number of recommendations about how the position of this vulnerable group of workers can be improved through better access to employment rights and information, improvements in working conditions and career opportunities, and improved provision of support and advice.
1. INTRODUCTION This project, The Experience of Ethnic Minority Workers in the Hotel and Catering Industry: Routes to Support and Advice on Workplace Problems, was funded by the European Social Fund and Acas and carried out by the Working Lives Research Institute, London Metropolitan University between May 2004 and July 2006. The project used qualitative research methods to explore the experiences and problems at work of ethnic minority and migrant workers in hotels and restaurants, with the aim of both identifying the range of experiences and problems encountered, and gaining a greater understanding of access to and use of support and advice to resolve these problems.
The research therefore provides evidence of the conditions faced by ethnic minority and migrant workers, which is an area relatively neglected by research so far. Its objective is to inform policy in order to improve good practice in relation to the employment of ethnic minority and migrant workers, to prevent problems from arising, and to improve the support and advice mechanisms available.
The key target groups for these research findings and policy objectives are thus employers, statutory bodies, the voluntary sector, trade unions and community groups. 1.1 Background to the project At the start of the project a working paper (Wright and Pollert, 2005) was prepared to establish the extent of ethnic minority and migrant working in the hotel and restaurant sector, as well as pinpointing the main issues for workers in the sector identified by the existing literature. The working paper is available on the project website1.
The paper showed that ethnic minority and migrant workers make up a significant part of the hotel and restaurant workforce – almost threefifths (59%) of workers in the sector in London described themselves as other than White British in the 2001 census (Wright and Pollert, 2005: 27). Outside of London the picture reflects the differences in the concentration of the ethnic minority population across the UK. In the West Midlands, where 84% of the hotel and restaurant workforce were White British in 2001, the largest other groups were White other (2.9%), Bangladeshi (2.3%) and Indian (2.2%). The sector is a particularly important source of employment for some groups, with 52% of male Bangladeshi workers employed in restaurants, compared to only 1% of white males (Holgate, 2004: 21).
In London, migrant workers (those born outside the UK) account for 60% of those employed in the hotel and restaurant sector (GLA, 2005: 68), compared to 31% of all London workers who were born outside the UK. However there have been important changes in the composition of the hotel and restaurant workforce since the 2001 census, with employers filling vacancies in the sector by employing significant numbers of workers from the East European countries that acceded to the EU in 2004 (known as the A8 countries). The government requires nationals of the A8 countries who wish to work in the UK to register with the Worker Registration Scheme (WRS), and Home Office figures show that of the 375,000 workers registered between May 2004 and March 2006, 22% were working in hospitality and catering (80,570 workers) (Home Office, 1
2006a). There has, however, been a decline in the proportion of WRS applicants in Hospitality and Catering from 31% in the second quarter of 2004, to 18% in the first quarter of 2006, with Administration, Business and Management now employing greater numbers. The highest proportion of all applicants under the scheme were Polish (61%), followed by Lithuanian (12%) and Slovak (10%). The figures also show a movement of registered workers to other parts of the UK than London, with the percentage applying to London falling from 25% in the second quarter of 2004, to 11% in the first quarter of 2006
(Home Office, 2006a). While working conditions in the industry have been well documented as consisting of low pay, low status, exploitation of employees and lack of unionisation (e.g. Gabriel, 1988; Price, 1994; Head and Lucas, 2004; LPC 2005), little has been written in the UK about the actual experiences of ethnic minority and migrant workers, with much of the existing literature focusing on management behaviour and strategy (Wright and Pollert, 2005). Some recent exceptions include a study of low pay in London (Evans et al, 2005), which included the hotel and catering industry.
This study of 341 randomly selected low paid workers contained 90% who were migrants. Of their sample of hotel and hospitality workers, the largest group (two-fifths) were non-British whites, mainly from Eastern Europe, followed by Africans (24%). It found the lowest rates of pay to be in the hotel and catering sector, below contract cleaning, home care and the food industry.
Other recent research has considered the experience of Central and East European migrants in low paid employment in the UK in the context of the A8 countries joining the EU, and covers hospitality, along with construction, agriculture and au pairs (Anderson et al, 2006). It is some 15 years since the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) undertook a formal investigation into recruitment and selection in hotels (CRE, 1991) in response to concern that the sector was failing to consider equal opportunities in employment practices. It found that ethnic minority staff were disproportionately concentrated in unskilled jobs, and found only one ethnic minority manager out of 117 hotels investigated. It made a number of recommendations about how hotels should improve their practices in relation to recruitment, monitoring, positive action and training taking account of equal opportunities issues.
However, we have been unable to find evidence of any monitoring or evaluation of whether these recommendations have been heeded or implemented by hotel employers. While knowledge of employment rights among all workers in the UK is poor, it has been shown that vulnerable groups know even less (Pollert, 2005). A random survey of people’s awareness of employment rights in the West Midlands found that women, ethnic minorities, young people and the low paid were least likely to be aware of their rights (WMLPU, 2001).
The research was undertaken in the context of considerable public debate on migration policy, and at a time when the government was intending to phase out low skilled migration schemes, such as the Sectors Based Scheme, which granted work permits to certain numbers of workers in skills shortage sectors such as hospitality, in the light of new labour available from the European Union (Home Office, 2005). At the same time there is increasing concern for “vulnerable” workers, and the government has recently published a policy statement on protecting vulnerable workers, defined as “someone working in an environment where the risk of being denied employment rights is high and who does not have the capacity or means to protect themselves from that abuse” (DTI, 2006: 25).
1.2 Research aims The research set out to address the following key questions: 1. What are the working conditions of ethnic minority and migrant workers in hotels and restaurants? 2. How are working conditions seen and what are perceived as ‘problems’, and how does this impact on acceptance of poor working conditions? 3. What type of problems do ethnic minority and migrant workers have working in hotels and restaurants? 4. How do these compare to the problems generally affecting workers in the sector and to what extent are they associated with particular labourmarket niches within the sector to which these workers are confined? If this is so, to what extent is the insecurity of migrant status relevant, or is racial discrimination relevant?
5. How much do ethnic minority and migrant workers in this sector know about their rights at work, and to what extent do ethnic minority and migrant workers in this sector attempt to enforce their legal rights at work, or instead try to find ways to achieve a sufficient income and manageable working conditions, even if this means colluding with illegal employment practices?
6. How much do ethnic minority and migrant workers in this sector know about where to get advice and support for problems at work? And who do they turn to for advice and support? To what extent do ethnic minority and migrant workers in this sector use statutory (i.e. Acas, CRE), voluntary (CABx, local advice agencies), trade union, community (groups or informal contacts through ethnic networks) or informal (friends, family) sources of support and advice? 7. What are the experiences of ethnic minority and migrant workers in this sector of using all these sources of support and advice and what barriers do they face in accessing support and advice for workplace problems?
1.3 Structure of the report The report describes the research methodology and access routes, together with the characteristics of the interviewees in section 2. The working conditions experienced by interviewees are described in section 3, confirming evidence from much of the existing literature on the sector, but also highlighting where the experience of ethnic minority and migrant workers may be particular.
Section 4 describes the problems encountered by interviewees in their jobs in hotels and restaurants, but also considers the attitude of these workers to defining “problems” at work, as well as their approaches to resolving problems and barriers to resolution. The information, support and advice available to and used by the ethnic minority and migrant workers interviewed is explored in section 5, together with their awareness of employment rights in the UK.
In section 6 conclusions are drawn about the specific experiences of ethnic minority and migrant workers in the sector, the problems that they face and their need for support and advice, suggesting that changes need to be made to practice within the sector, as well as in improved provision of support to ethnic minority and migrant workers.
2. METHODOLOGY The project employed qualitative research methods to gather in-depth accounts of the experiences of 50 ethnic minority and migrant workers. Interviews were carried out between May 2005 and May 2006. In addition, interviews and face-to face and telephone conversations were held with key informants to provide contextual information on features and trends within the sector affecting ethnic minority and migrant workers. The strengths of using qualitative methods are that they can not only identify tangible issues (the problems themselves, for example), but also more elusive, subjective issues, such as motivation, perceptions of opportunities and of rights, sense of inclusion, integration and fairness – or their opposites – sense of frustration, alienation and barriers to obtaining support and fairness at work.
2.1 Regional scope The research project was confined to England within the terms of reference set by the European Social Fund. Three English regions were selected in order to provide a comparison of experiences of migrant and ethnic minority workers: London, the West Midlands and the South West. London and the West Midlands have considerably larger non-white and migrant populations than other parts of the country, with significant numbers of Bangladeshis and Pakistanis working in the hotel and restaurant sector in the West Midlands (Wright and Pollert, 2005: 27 28). In contrast, the South West is the English region with the smallest non-white population, but is experiencing a growth in migrant workers.
The problems facing ethnic minority and migrant populations here have been less well documented, but where studies have been done, isolation from ethnic minority communities and support structures emerges as an issue (BMG Research, 2003; Gaine and Lamley, 2003; SWTUC, 2004). Tourism also accounts for 10% of total employment in the South West, with the greatest proportion of these (70%) employed in the hospitality sector – accommodation, restaurants, pubs etc. (Tourism Skills Network South West, 2002). In the South West it was decided to focus the research on two towns with a large tourist population and therefore a high demand for a hotel and restaurant workforce:
Bournemouth and Plymouth. The Human Resources manager of a Bournemouth hotel group, interviewed for this research, said that only 32% of their workforce was British, indicating a high reliance on foreign-born workers. 2.2 Definitions of ethnic minority and migrant workers The research includes both “ethnic minority” and “migrant” workers, categories which, in real life, are complex, changing and overlapping. Some ethnic minorities (using the Labour Force Survey definitions) will also be migrants. Migrants (defined here as all those who were born outside the UK, Home Office, 2002) may or may not be defined as ethnic minorities, and may or may not be discriminated against. White Australian or Canadian migrant workers, for example, would not be.
But Kosovan people may be regarded as ethnic minorities, and suffer racism and discrimination, and Czech or Polish people may or may not be discriminated against, and while they may not be “visible” in terms of skin colour, in the way black and Asian people are, they are “visible” in terms of language, cultural characteristics, and discrimination. As many “white” Eastern Europeans are now working in the hotel and restaurant sector, particularly since the EU enlargement in May 2004, it was felt to be important to include their experiences in the study.
2.3 Access to research participants In order to include the experience of a broad range of interviewees from different ethnic groups and backgrounds, including both recent and more settled ethnic minorities, it was decided to use multiple routes to access interviewees. Therefore a range of bodies were contacted, many with a twofold purpose of: a) providing contextual information about the sector and/or the experiences of particular ethnic groups; and b) helping gain access to research participants.
Organisations contacted included trade unions, community and worker organisations, sector bodies, employers and statutory and advice agencies (see Appendix 2). In the South West, where there are fewer organised community groups than in the two other regions, we spoke to officers at Bournemouth Borough Council, who gave us informal contacts within the main local ethnic minority communities, as well as putting us in contact with several community interpreters who spoke the main languages of the local ethnic minority groups: Portuguese, Korean, Turkish, Bengali and Spanish.
These routes proved very useful in helping to access research participants and in providing interpretation for interviews. However, in the end, Turkish and Bangladeshi workers were reluctant to come forward to be interviewed, which the interpreters said was because they were fearful of speaking out about their employers, despite reassurances of confidentiality. In all three areas we used fieldworkers who were able to use their language skills to carry out interviews in workers’ native languages, namely Bengali, Spanish, Polish, Lithuanian and Mandarin. The fieldworkers were also able to provide access to workers who may not have come forward otherwise, being people who were known and trusted among their own ethnic communities, or who were able to provide sufficient reassurance of confidentiality.
Training was provided in using the interview guide to all fieldworkers to ensure a common approach was used in interviews and that fieldworkers understood the aims and objectives of the research. While the approach used provided access to workers in a wide range of establishments, from large hotel groups to small independent restaurants, including several working ‘illegally’ or ‘informally’, we acknowledge that using such routes could not access the most hard-to-reach illegal migrant and ethnic minority workers, who may constitute a considerable proportion of workers in the sector.
The research may not fully represent the worst conditions found in the ‘underbelly’ of the sector as suffered by many ‘illegal’ or ‘undocumented’ migrants, as portrayed, for example, in Steven Frear’s 2002 film about a London hotel, Dirty Pretty Things. It was decided not only to seek out interviewees who perceived themselves as having had a “problem” at work, but a range of people in different jobs in the sector, in order to explore their typical work experiences and their attitudes towards “problems” and conditions in the sector.
2.4 Key informants In addition to the worker interviews, at least 20 key informants (see Appendix 2) provided further context on the hotel and restaurant sector, including regional knowledge. These included employers and employer representative bodies, trade union officials and branch members, community organisations, representatives of sector bodies and statutory and voluntary organisations. In some cases in-depth interviews were carried out, and in others more informal conversations were held either face-to-face or on the telephone.
2.5 Worker interviews A total of 50 in-depth qualitative interviews were carried out in the three regions, with a greater number in London due to the huge range of ethnic minority and migrant workers in the sector in the capital. The breakdown was as follows: Table 1: Worker interviews by region Region London South West West Midlands Total
% 46% 24% 30% 100%
No. of worker interviews 23 12 15 50 during the interviews, which and a half. Participants were of both themselves and their participation with a £10 shop
A semi-structured interview schedule was used generally lasted between 45 minutes to an hour assured of confidentiality, and of the anonymity employer. They were thanked for their time and voucher.
At the start of the interview, participants were asked to complete a two-page questionnaire giving basic demographic and employment details, data from which is provided in the following section. 2.5.1 Ethnicity Respondents were asked to describe their ethnicity, according to the classification used in the 2001 Census. The results are grouped together in table 2. Table 2: Ethnicity of the sample Ethnicity White Bangladeshi and Pakistani Chinese and Other Asian Black Mixed
% 36% 26% 20% 16% 2%
No. of interviewees 18 13 10 8 1
2.5.2 Country of birth Table 3 shows the range of countries from which interviewees came. It was notable that only one participant was born in the UK, despite attempts to find British-born ethnic minority workers in the sector. Both fieldworkers and interviewees themselves commented that many British-born people do not wish to work in a sector that is known for low pay and long hours, including the children of migrants interviewed, as they seek better alternative employment opportunities (some young British-born workers do work in the sector while they are students, but tend to do so for only a short time).
Table 3: Country of birth Country of birth Bangladesh China Colombia France Ghana Holland Indonesia Ivory coast Korea Lithuania Philippines Poland Portugal Slovakia Somalia Spain Sudan Turkey UK Ukraine 2.5.3 Gender Women are under-represented in the sample (38% of interviewees) compared to their presence in the sector as a whole, but this reflects the fact that the sample includes a substantial number of Bangladeshi workers, who represent a significant group in the sector in the West
Midlands, and most of these workers are male (Wright and Pollert, 2005: 27-28). 2.5.4 Age Only one interviewee was under 21 years old. Almost two-fifths (38%) were aged 21 to 30 years old, and the same proportion were between 31 and 40 years old. Six interviewees (12%) were aged 41 to 50, and five (10%) were between 51 to 60. None of the interviewees were aged over 60. 2.5.5 Education Overall the sample was fairly highly educated, with 36% having a first stage or higher degree. Another 10% had post-secondary non-tertiary level education, and 36% had received education up to secondary level, while 12% had received
% 24% 10% 6% 2% 4% 2% 2% 2% 6% 8% 2% 4% 4% 6% 6% 2% 2% 4% 2% 2%
No. of interviewees 12 5 3 1 2 1 1 1 3 4 1 2 2 3 3 1 1 2 1 1
primary level education or less. A further 6% had other qualifications or the details of their education were not known. 2.5.6 Employment The majority (62%) of the interviewees worked in restaurants, while 30% worked in hotels. The remaining 8% either worked in both hotels and restaurants, as agency workers, or in catering services. More than half of respondents (54%) said there were 10 or fewer employees where they worked. A further 22% said there were between 11 and 25 people where they worked.
Only 6% worked for employers with between 26 to 49 people and 10% said there were 50 or more employees where they worked. However these figures should be treated with caution, and may underestimate the number working for larger employers, as respondents may have interpreted the questions as referring to the workplace or department of the hotel where they worked, rather than the employer as a whole. Almost half the interviewees (48%) worked as waiters or waitresses, either in hotels or restaurants. Another 20% were chefs or cooks, and a further 4% worked in kitchens as general assistants. 12% said they were supervisors or managers and 4% described themselves as cashiers. Another 10% worked in other jobs in hotels as receptionist, general assistant or porter/bar worker.
The majority of workers were full-time (70%), while 14% said they worked parttime, and 14% were casual workers. Working hours were long. The largest proportion (40%) worked over 40 hours per week – 10% worked between 41 and 48 hours, while almost a third (30%) said they worked over 48 hours a week. Just over a third (36%) worked between 21 and 40 hours a week. Only 6% did less than 20 hours a week.
The majority (82%) had only one job at the time of the interview, with 18% having two or more jobs. However, some of those currently working in only one job talked of previous times in the sector when they had more than one job. 2.5.7 Union membership Only five were members of a trade union (either the GMB or the T&G), or 10% of the interviewees, although this is still a higher proportion than in the sector as a whole, where only 5% of workers are unionised (Wright and Pollert, 2005: 25).
2.6 Data analysis All worker interviews were tape recorded and transcribed (or detailed notes were made where the quality of the recording did not allow for full transcription) with the participants’ consent, and field-notes were made shortly after the interviews. This data was analysed with the help of QSR N6 data analysis software in order to assist a consistent and rigorous approach to the data being analysed. A thematic index was developed to categorise the transcripts according to major themes and transcripts were coded accordingly using the N6 software.
3. WORKING CONDITIONS IN HOTELS AND RESTAURANTS This section describes the conditions under which the ethnic minority and migrant workers interviewed were working in hotels and restaurants, covering pay, hours, holidays, sick pay, written contracts, job security, training and informal working. Other conditions experienced are described in section 4, in which workers’ experience of problems at work is discussed. 3. 1 Pay 3.1.1 Rates of pay The National Minimum Wage (NMW) (since October 2005 it is £5.05 an hour for those aged 22 and over, and £4.25 for those aged 18 to 21, and from October 2004 it was £4.85 and £4.10) was the rate set by many employers in the sector, particularly outside of London.
The research included nine workers who were paid exactly the NMW, including one who was paid youth rate as she was aged 21. Nearly all of these worked in the South West, with only two in London, which indicates that whereas hotel chains and agencies in London may be obliged to pay something above the NMW to their basic grade staff, in Bournemouth staff working in hotels in basic grade jobs, such as the bar, restaurant, porters and housekeeping, receive only the minimum wage.
A Human Resources manager of a Bournemouth hotel group said that this was their policy to pay the NMW to everyone at the operative level – i.e. “anybody that’s not qualified or skilled with some qualifications” – and it appeared to be common in other hotels in the area. More than a third of interviewees were paid above the NMW, although in some cases only just above this level.
A Birmingham sandwich shop assistant said her wages had risen from the NMW to £5.10 per hour after a few months’ service, and, in a fast food chain, a kitchen assistant in London was now getting £5.30 an hour, having started on the NMW, after being with the firm for around a year. The rate for waiters working through agencies in London was said to be £5.50 by a couple of interviewees. However, one said that when he moved from being employed through an agency to working directly for the catering service of a public sector body, his rate increased from £5.50 to £8 an hour. The highest hourly rates for waiters among interviewees were £7 to £8 an hour in some London hotels and catering services. Some workers received higher rates than the NMW in recognition of their supervisory or management roles. In a unionised London hotel annual salaries for supervisors in restaurants and banqueting were from £13,000 to £16,000 gross. The professional skills of chefs can attract higher pay, and one chef de partie in a good quality London restaurant earned around £19,000 gross, although this is for an average working week of 56 hours (see below).
The Human Resources manager of a Bournemouth group of hotels illustrated that employers will not pay above the NMW if they do not need to, even for skilled staff: “We’ve got a head chef from Slovakia who was earning £2.50 an hour in Slovakia, we offered to pay him £4.85 [the NMW at the time], he was over the moon. And for us that was incredible because we should be paying, you know, a lot, lot, lot more than that. But it suited him, it suited us and of course again that’s going to keep industry wages low if you’ve got somebody who has been
to college, comes out with their certain qualifications and now says ‘I don’t get out of bed for less than £10.00 an hour’ and yet you’ve got Mr Slovak who will come and do it for £4.85, where is the industry going, where is the whole of society going in that it will always keep wages low? And therefore the National Minimum Wage is a good idea.” (Human Resources Manager, Bournemouth hotel group). Government research suggests a widespread view among employers across the economy that migrant workers are cheaper because of their low pay reference point: ”…comments from employers suggested migrant workers were better thought of because they were more likely to be happy with the minimum wage (as it was higher pay than in their home countries)“ (Home Office, 2006b).
This indicates that in a sector such as hotels and catering, already known for its low pay, employers’ use of migrant workers’ lower expectations of pay may depress wages further, which raises concerns about the exploitation of their vulnerability. 3.1.2 “Cash-in-hand” and undeclared, illegal working Around two-fifths of the interviewees either earned below the NMW, or were paid a flat rate per shift or per week which was the same regardless of actual hours worked, and which made it difficult to tell their actual hourly pay, or were reluctant to say what they were paid.
Most of these were also paid cash-in-hand. A typical rate for waiters in Bangladeshi or Indian restaurants in the West Midlands was £200 for a 50 to 60 hour week, normally paid as a flat rate, regardless of the actual hours worked, so many complained that they were paid nothing extra if customers stayed until 12 or 1am (see 3.1.4 below). One waiter with around 15 years’ experience received about £70 for 26 to 30 hours a week. He said: “I do not think that Bangladeshi or Indian restaurant owners have heard of the minimum wages regulations. If they could, these people would like people to work for nothing, just in return for food perhaps.” (Male, Bangladeshi, restaurant worker, West Midlands)
He explained that the restaurant owners showed officially that they were paying staff part-time at £30 to £60 per week, while paying £200 for a full-time week of around 70-80 hours. A Turkish restaurant owner in London admitted that he declared most of his staff as part-time, although they worked full-time hours, but said that staff wanted this, with both parties avoiding their full tax and national insurance liabilities. A chef in a Chinese restaurant in Plymouth was earning £300 for a 63-hour week in addition to which he received accommodation and meals and felt he did better than in London, where he had been paid £200 for working in a restaurant in Chinatown.
Rates for other staff where he now worked were lower, though, with the person doing the washing up and cleaning receiving only £180 to £200 a week. 3.1.3 Tips Tips have traditionally made up a significant part of wages for waiters and waitresses, making up for low wages and contributing to a worker’s sense that they can increase what they earn by working hard or providing good service.
In some cases the tip is an essential part of the wage, which would be below the NMW otherwise. One Lithuanian waitress in a central London restaurant was paid only £20 for a minimum 8-hour shift (officially from 4pm to 12am, but in reality they usually finished at 1am or 2am), so relied on the 12.5% service charge plus tips to make up her pay. The tips provided an incentive to work hard, she said, as “the more people one serves the bigger percentage of service charge one gets”.
A waiter in an Indian restaurant commented, though, that: “nowadays the majority of people pay by credit or debit card so that they leave us very little 'tips'.” (Male, Bangladeshi, restaurant worker, West Midlands) Changes to the payment system which meant that tips were paid through the pay packet, and therefore taxable, left one waitress in a London hotel believing that staff had lost out as a result of the change.
Despite tips being added to the salary, she said they ended up with the same amount in their pay packet, but without the additional cash tips: “They add it [tips] to our salary, but before they didn't have that system. So obviously it looks like … tips are included to our salary, so it should be more now because we have more salary, wages, paid out more than before, but it's all the same. So it means they didn't increase our salary” (Female, Ukrainian, hotel worker, London) A further problem of being reliant on tips was highlighted by a Colombian restaurant assistant manager in London, who takes home up to £2,000 a month, of which more than half is tips (his basic salary is £900 a month).
As a result he feels he cannot afford to take his full 6-week holiday entitlement because he loses such a large proportion of his salary when he is on holiday and is only paid the basic rate. For some “cash-in-hand” workers, though, when the restaurant is busy and tips are good, staff may be happy with what they can make, which may be above the minimum: “I get £35 [per shift] plus tips. I mean, tips are really good here. Sometimes when you are busy you get kind of £7 or £8 per hour. So yeah, it's enough.” (Male, Turkish, restaurant worker, London) In this case though, such rates are clearly dependant on business being good, and also rely on customer generosity. Long hours are also expected, and the flat rate per shift stays the same regardless of hours.
3.1.4 Overtime pay For most interviewees overtime was not paid. Extra hours were either paid at the normal rate or, in several cases, were not paid at all, with staff expected to continue working until the last customer left for no extra pay. A Lithuanian worker at a London restaurant told how it was routine that staff stayed until all customers had left, without additional pay: “Especially when one works till 3-4am when there are parties. There was one party when they asked us to stay longer and promised to give good tips, but when the manager told them that no more alcohol would be served after 3am, they got furious and left. And no tips. And so we had to polish glasses until 5am. Nobody told anything about any additional payment.” (Female, Lithuanian, restaurant worker, London)
Some waiters in Indian and Bangladeshi restaurants also found this was common practice: “For example if the restaurant closes at 2am and customers arrive at 2am, we are expected to serve them until 3am. We do not get paid for extra hours. Even if five customers arrive after closing time, the manager expects us to serve them and we do not get paid on an hourly basis, they pay us on verbal contract, but they don't keep their promises. If you disagree with them you have to leave.” (Male, Pakistani, restaurant worker, West Midlands)
Only a small number of interviewees got paid overtime, including time and a half for a general assistant in a small, independent West Midlands hotel, and in a London hotel with trade union recognition. But in this unionised hotel, a waitress reported that managers did not want to give overtime to full-time staff who were more expensive: “They usually give it to people from the agency, casual people, because it's less pay or something? I don't know. And that's the thing that is happening with the Bank Holiday… They never put the full-time worker for the Bank Holiday.
Because in this case they have to pay to us double and to give to us lieu-day.” (Female, Ukrainian, hotel worker, London) 3.2 Hours and workload 3.2.1 Long hours Long working hours are typical in hotels and restaurants, and were found to be very common among those interviewed. Hardly any of the full-time workers interviewed did less than a 40-hour week, with 50 to 60 hours a week being common for many, particularly those working in restaurants, who often worked late into the evening. In one prestigious London restaurant, the normal working hours for chefs were 56 hours a week, made up of two double shifts of 16 hours, plus three 8-hour shifts.
A female commis chef from Ghana in this restaurant typified the kind of fatalistic acceptance expressed by many about their conditions: "It's a bit tiring, but you get used to it... It's only when you don't sleep well that you are tired, but it's alright and you don't do double every day, some days you come in the evenings, it's alright". (Female, Ghanaian, restaurant worker, London) Many restaurant workers did a six-day week, so having only one day off a week. For one Bangladeshi waiter in Bournemouth, the introduction of two days off a week would be one of the improvements to his working conditions he would most like to see. Split shifts are also common in restaurants and hotels. In one Bournemouth hotel the waiters would work from 8am to 12pm, then come back at 6pm til 11pm.
A Korean worker described it as: “a horrible shift. But people do it because every hotel does. It's not only the one hotel or two, every hotel does that. Because they've got a tight budget.” (Male, Korean, hotel worker, South West) A Colombian assistant restaurant manager usually worked a 60 to 65 hour week, but lived too far from work to travel home between shifts (10.30-3pm, 6pm-11, 12 or 1am) so would normally leave home at 9am and arrive back at 12 or 1am.
However, some more enlightened employers have got rid of split shifts, recognising its unpopularity with staff. A group manager of a Bournemouth hotel cited the fact that all staff now did a straight shift as one improvement that had been introduced to working conditions. Many told of the effect that such hours had on their health and social and family lives. An owner of a Turkish restaurant in London was working 80 hours a week: “It affect my family life. My social life. Is not good. But we have to do it. We have to do it, if you want to manage the restaurant.” (Male, Turkish, restaurant worker, London) Several felt that they did not have any life outside work: “Actually I don't have any life because I work, work and work. It's a pity of course.
I don't like this too much… we always work in the evening or we do double shifts, from 10am to 1-2am. I would like it more if I could work in the morning and finish at 4pm, so you have the evening free and you can do something. Otherwise, if one works so many hours a day, one sleeps the next morning, gets up and goes to work again.” (Female, Lithuanian, restaurant worker, London) “We finish working at 11pm. By the time I get back home, it is past midnight and I am still in the working and stressing mode. After having a rest and winding down a bit, the time I usually go to bed is almost 3 in the morning. I feel tired every day. Certainly there is a lack of sleep. When I have a day off, I don't go anywhere;
I just stay in bed and sleep.” (Male, Chinese, restaurant worker, London) “My life here is only working and sleeping. I get up and go downstairs to work. After finishing working, I go back upstairs again to sleep. Nowadays, I don't feel as if I have any feelings any more.” (Female, Chinese, restaurant worker, South West) Another waitress in a Chinese restaurant described the physical effect of working from 11am to 11pm each day, but felt she had no choice: “After working for the whole day, my legs and feet are in terrible pain. However, we have to cope with it. If you can't do it, someone else would soon step in to take your place. The employers don't have any problems in hiring workers here.” (Female, Chinese, restaurant worker, London)
3.2.2 Unsocial hours Late working was a particular concern for some female staff, who were worried about travelling home at night. A hotel waitress, who was expected to stay until her last customer left the restaurant, had a bus journey of an hour and half across London after her shift, and had recently been mugged late at night near her home. Another female fast-food restaurant worker would only work during the day as she feared travelling in London at night. Many workers were expected to work at evenings and weekends, when hotels and restaurants are busiest, and refusal of time off at weekends, even occasionally, was often a great source of dissatisfaction among staff. This hotel restaurant worker said it was a rule that you could not have Saturday off:
“Normally I couldn't get Saturday. It's not really nice, you know, because everybody have commitments, Saturdays, normal weekend. You want to see friends. Usually the people, the friends, making party or birthday. They are doing Saturday, Sunday. And you so sad, you know, you just have to go to work. Because they say no, no, it's busy, that's all, no question.” (Female, Ukrainian, hotel worker, London) Similarly, even occasional Saturdays were not allowed for this restaurant worker to spend time with his family: “I only work on Friday night and Saturday night and sometime we need a break, for example, Saturday is a family night. If I want to give some time to my family, I need to give my family some time on Saturday, say once in six month. They will not allow you to take that time off.”
(Male, Bangladeshi, restaurant worker, West Midlands) 3.2.3 Irregular hours For some in the industry, the problem is not long hours but rather too few hours, or the irregularity of the work available. One waiter in a Somali restaurant said his working week could vary from 20 to 40 hours, “whatever boss needs”, and so he was looking for another job with a more steady income. Another hotel worker who worked between 10 and 15 hours a week felt it was unfair the way the working hours were allocated, with more hours going to students on placements who had greater flexibility over when they could work. Some of those working through agencies also complained about not getting the hours that they needed to support themselves, so often signed up with several agencies to ensure that work was available. 3.2.4 More than one job Several of the interviewees had, or had in the past, worked in more than one job.
This was sometimes a part-time job on top of a full-time one. In one case a fulltime hotel receptionist from Slovakia had found a second job as a healthcare assistant, making his total working week 60 hours, when he discovered that the cost of living in Bournemouth was much higher than he expected: “It's not so good to have just like to work for minimal rates, but you don't pay minimal rates for your rent or for your place, you know.” (Male, Slovakian, hotel worker, South West) Another hotel porter/barman from Slovakia with a 40-hour job had previously had a housekeeping job as well, working from 8am to 11pm, but had felt unable to continue at that pace: “[I was] able to do it maybe three or four months but after that you die, you know, you can't do it every day, you have to live, you have to see your friends and you have to have free time, spare time. Was too difficult.”
(Male, Slovakian, hotel worker, South West) The research found it was common for migrants when they arrive in the UK to work such exceptionally long hours, either to afford accommodation, which as we have seen may be more expensive than anticipated, or perhaps to repay agency fees for finding the work in the UK, or to prepare for bringing family over. This was the case for one worker who came from Portugal, where she had been unable to find work, to the South West of England, but needed to earn enough money to be able to get accommodation and bring her children over to the UK. She found
herself working 70 hours a week in several jobs for about two years, before feeling she had to cut down her hours: “Because I was, I was lost. After all those years working so hard. I was a bit lost with myself. I didn’t have time for myself.” (Female, Portuguese, hotel and restaurant worker, South West) A Polish worker with a wife and two young children in Poland had three jobs to help him in “earning for the heating system” for the house he was building at home. He spent: “36 hours cutting grass, 10-20 hours in the [catering job], and 10 hours of being a doorman. I haven’t even thought about how many hours I do, about 58 hours, not a tragedy. Yesterday, for example, I did a day from 8am to 1am.” (Male, Polish, agency worker, London)
To maximise the chance to save money, he rented a 3-bedroom flat with seven others in London, and was sharing a room: “The conditions are horrible, it’s crowded. But the good thing is that one comes and someone else leaves so we don’t come home all at the same time, we don’t run into each other.” (Male, Polish, agency worker, London) 3.3 Holidays Hotel employers tended only to provide the legal minimum of four weeks’ holiday a year. Only a small number of workers employed by hotel chains received more. This included a Filipino restaurant supervisor in a unionised hotel who got servicerelated holiday, amounting to 27 days after her 25 years in employment.
However, in the restaurant sector, only a handful of interviewees received their four week entitlement, although many workers did not know what their holiday entitlement was, particularly the more recent recruits. A cashier who had been working for a franchised sandwich chain for a year claimed she only got two weeks’ paid holiday a year, indicating either that the company is not providing employees with their legal entitlement, or that employees are ill-informed about their own employment conditions.
This employee of a fast-food chain had tried to ask her employers about her holiday entitlement, but had found it difficult to get any information from them: “Even if you ask them how many days they don’t know because you know, their finance people is different and it’s a big company. And you can’t know, you can’t have anyone to ask what’s going on, they say I don’t know, they don’t know.” (Female, Sudanese, restaurant worker, London) Among many restaurant workers, holiday arrangements were rather informal, with some saying they received no holidays, and others getting below the legal minimum.
One waitress who had worked in a central London café for several years was pleased that her employers allowed her six weeks’ off to return to Colombia, but said that only three of these were paid. According to a Chinese cook with 10 years’ experience in Chinese restaurants, some paid for holidays while others did not. “After working four months, you have one week holiday. If you don't take your holiday and choose to work, they will pay you double. If you choose to take your holiday, some employers give you holiday pay, some don't. Anyway, it all
depends on what kind of employers you have got. Some employers won't even let their staff take any holidays at all. I worked for eight different Chinese restaurants and over half of them didn't let me take holidays.” (Male, Chinese, restaurant worker, South West) In Indian and Bangladeshi restaurants in the West Midlands an informal policy of two weeks’ leave operated in many places, although a couple of full-time workers said they received three weeks’ leave. One worker described it like this: “These owners of Indian Restaurants have formulated a law by themselves, for example, you are entitled to two weeks’ paid holiday a year.
But until you have worked there for a year, you will not get that entitlement, even if you have worked there for six month. Say you have worked six month and you want a week off, you can take it but don't expect your job back after a week, nor can you expect any holiday pay. It is draconian.” (Male, Bangladeshi, restaurant worker, West Midlands) It can be seen, therefore, that as with other areas of employment rights, many workers in this sector are being denied their legal rights, or simply are unaware of their entitlement.
As this cook in a Chinese restaurant puts it: “When you are new in the UK, you don't know anything about English public holidays. Some workers have been here for more than 10 years and they still don't know anything about public holidays. We don't know the English employment policy regarding overtime and holiday pay.” (Male, Chinese, restaurant worker, London) 3.4 Sick pay and leave The majority of interviewees, when asked about whether they would get paid if they were off sick, did not know. A small number said that they would be paid for one or two days of sickness, but not more, and a few others said they would not be paid for the first few days of sickness, but would be paid after that on production of a certificate from the doctor, indicating some knowledge of the Statutory Sick Pay system.
A Bangladeshi waiter in Bournemouth considered his Bangladeshi restaurant employer to be “good” because he had been paid when off sick with flu for four days, but acknowledged that the owner would not pay sick pay for illnesses of more than two weeks. At a unionised London hotel, permanent staff were entitled to payment for a limited period under the sick pay scheme. However, a waitress there reported that she had been called at home when off sick with a sore throat, and even though she had lost her voice, she felt pressured into coming into work while sick. Many of the informal workers, though, felt unable to take time off when sick, or if members of their family were ill, for fear of losing their jobs.
This waiter in an Indian restaurant said: “If, for example, you’re sick on Friday and Saturday, it doesn't matter because you still have to go to work because it's the busiest day of the week, it doesn't matter what is your problem. One Friday I was sick but I went to work and I told my employer maybe if I don't feel like it tomorrow maybe I won’t come. He said if you don't die you have to come to my premises and you have to stay there.” (Male, Bangladeshi, restaurant worker, West Midlands)
A Chinese restaurant worker confirmed: “If you are off sick for a couple of days, that is fine. But if you are off sick for over a week, then the employer will ask you to leave. He will employ someone else to replace you.” (Male, Chinese, restaurant worker, South West) 3.5 Written information and contracts 3.5.1 Lack of written information It is clear from comments already made that employees were often unaware of their terms and conditions, and many had not been provided with any written information to clarify these. In this case, a Lithuanian waitress said that taxes were paid by the employer, but she did not receive payslips: “At the end of tax year I will get P45 and everything will be there: how much I was paid and how much taxes I paid.
But they don't give any payslips every week or every month. I understand that the manager is too lazy to deal with all those papers so gives this form to everyone at the end of the tax year. And everything will be written there… But this is the way it has always been and this is how they do. It is interesting. I would like to know how much taxes I pay and so on.” (Female, Lithuanian, restaurant worker, London) 3.5.2 Written particulars of contracts Not surprisingly, none of those working informally in the restaurant sector had written contracts, and this was a source of anxiety for some, and a confirmation of their insecure employment situation. One waiter said: ”I would like to see a proper contract, because at this moment… there is no contract between me and employer.
If he wants to kick me out tomorrow he can, I can’t tell anyone, if I go to someone... go to Citizen's Advice Bureau, go there and complain about my employer and if they contact my employer the employer will say this person does not work in my place. So there is nothing between me and my employer, so it’s gotta be changed.” (Male, Bangladeshi, restaurant worker, West Midlands) But it is also common for legitimately employed workers in the hotel and restaurant sector not to receive the written particulars or a written statement of a contract of employment, or for it to take some time to be provided, and well over the two months after the beginning of employment required by the Employment Rights Act 1996.
One worker in a sandwich shop in Bi