Two out of three workers at Premier Inn, the UK’s biggest budget hotel chain, are regularly missing out on their rest breaks and not getting paid what they are owed, a snap poll by Unite has revealed.
Of those who work through their rest breaks, 75 per cent are not paid for this time and over half are not given a break later in the day, in breach of the working time regulations which entitle workers to an uninterrupted 20 minute break every six hours.
The findings come as a new report by the Unpaid Britain project was launched in London yesterday (November 30). The Unpaid Britain report from researchers at Middlesex University has found that at least two million workers a year are being cheated out of pay they are owed, at a value of over £3bn a year.
The main reasons cited for working through rest breaks were staff shortages and heavy workloads with one respondent saying: ‘Yes, we are short staffed all the time, they want you to cut your holidays short and phone you up on your day off.’
Unite has warned hospitality giant Whitbread, which owns Premier Inn, that legal action is in the pipeline over wage theft claims from union members who have worked through their breaks and not been paid what they are owed.
“The Unpaid Britain report highlights that employers are adopting a broken business model to cheat workers out of money they are rightfully owed,” said Unite hotel project co-ordinator Charlotte Bence.
“It is shameful that Whitbread, one of the largest employers in the hospitality sector, seems to be engaged in this type of activity.
“Unite is clear that this is ‘wage theft’. Whitbread posted pre-tax profits of £316m in August 2017 – this is profit earned at the expense of workers who are not being paid what they are owed for the time they have worked.”
She continued, “Under the working time regulations, workers are entitled to a 20 minute break for every six hours worked. Premier Inn staff have told us they are not getting this statutory right and a number of colleagues have reported that this is as a consequence of short staffing.
‘Tip of iceberg’
“Unite takes these claims very seriously and is already seeking legal advice on behalf of members who have worked through their breaks and not been paid. No doubt Whitbread will claim these to be isolated incidents, but our survey suggests this is the tip of the iceberg.
“Unite wants Whitbread to respect their staff, pay them properly for the hours they work and ensure they can take the breaks they are entitled to on shift. We encourage Premier Inn workers to get in touch with us,” she urged.
The snap survey conducted online over 10 days attracted 135 responses from Premier Inn workers from across the UK.
Premier Inn is the UK’s largest hotel chain with over 700 hotels across the UK with 65,000 bedrooms and place to increase its size to 85,000 bedrooms by 2020.