Do you expect staff to buy their own work clothing?

Restaurant chains Wagamama and TGI Fridays have both been fined because they failed to pay staff the National Minimum Wage. Wagamama said it had misunderstood rules about uniforms, and this had caused the mistake. It had asked front-of-house staff to wear black jeans or a black skirt with their Wagamama-branded top. This was considered as asking them to buy a form of uniform, and therefore the staff should have been paid for having to purchase the clothing. The same applied to TGI Friday who provided the clothing but asked that staff wear black shoes – and again, should have reimbursed the cost of shoes.

These chains were among 43 employers in the hospitality sector on the government’s latest list of firms breaking the law. Hotel chain Marriott was found to have underpaid 279 of its staff over £250 each on average. Many hospitality establishments expect staff to wear “standard” items of clothing which are unbranded – such as white shirts or black trousers or skirts and if they demand that staff adhere to this dress code then they must reimburse for doing so.

The minimum wage is currently £7.50 per hour for those aged 25 and over and will rise to £7.83 in April. The number of high profile employers included in this latest report shows the scope of the Government’s investigatory powers and the inevitability of negative publicity that now comes with being found to be in breach.

As well as being ‘named and shamed’, businesses can face fines up to £20,000 and even criminal sanctions. Employees who have been underpaid can also bring claims, seeking to recover underpayments going back several years.

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