Revealed: UK fast fashion staff stripped of salary by recruitment agency | Employment Law
Recruitment firms that supply warehouse workers to fast-fashion and high-street brands have repeatedly underpaid their workers and robbed them of their holiday wages. Observer Survey found.
Workers hired on zero-hour contracts to fill orders for PrettyLittleThing, its parent company Boohoo, The Very Group, Sainsbury’s and Currys were among those alleging their wages had been deducted by Mach Recruitment. increase.
In an Employment Court ruling in May 2022 (one of six so far this year), Mach was found not to be paid for working 12 shifts at The Very Group’s warehouse in 2021. was ordered to pay £1,184 to non-existent workers. In June 2022, a government agency ordered him to pay £138 for making unauthorized deductions from employees’ salaries, including not paying for vacation entitlements. In July he was ordered to pay £430 to workers who claimed they had not been paid for their shifts. In another case last June, Mach was ordered to pay workers £12,000 for unfair dismissal, £3,960 for unpaid bonuses and £1,064 for unpaid leave.
The agency has been brought before 12 employment courts in the past two years, resulting in orders to pay workers, including 10 cases related to unpaid wages, fraudulent payroll deductions or non-payment of vacation benefits. rice field.
Mach was not involved in the lawsuit and did not respond to calls or emails from court services, according to the ruling., The company blamed Covid-19 for communication and wage issues, adding that the allegations were baseless and it is disputing the ruling.
In addition to examining cases brought to court, Observer After speaking to eight former Mach workers who were with the company between 2020 and 2022, and analyzing evidence such as payslips, contracts, and text and email correspondence, the practice of underpayment was widespread. It has been suggested that there are
Mo Ajala, 23, who was hired to pick orders at PrettyLittleThing’s Sheffield warehouse during the pandemic, said she fought for more than six months to get paid for a week’s night shift. The business graduate was ignored, even though he called and texted Mach’s office numerous times. “I called and they said, ‘I’ll pay you this week.’ Then it’s been a week, two weeks, three weeks, four weeks,” he said.
He filed a lawsuit against Acas, which provides employment dispute support, and then took Mach to court in January 2021 after it was found that Mach had made illegal deductions from his wages. , ultimately paid £289. Mach was not involved in this process. “It was really stressful going through the whole thing just to pay the money I was rightfully owed,” Ajara said. I felt it.”
Lalit Yadav, a 25-year-old master’s student from India, provided documents to back up his claim that he too was underpaid by Mach. Yadav said in February he took a part-time job at Sainsbury’s distribution center near Leeds, balancing his studies with the night shift. He took three buses to the warehouse and was forced to do manual labor that in two months he lost 18 kg. However, at first he did not mind “working to the fullest”, as the regular wages helped him cover his living expenses.
The problem started three months later when I realized I hadn’t been paid for the eight-hour night shift I worked in June. He claims Mach told him he needed additional documents to process the payment, so he provided them, but was then told he wasn’t working that shift. “I’m sure they can check the cameras. is just telling me, ‘You must be out of work today,'” Yadav said. “Working hard and not getting paid was really demotivating.”
Mr. Yadav called Mr. Mach on numerous occasions to try to resolve the issue, but went back and forth between staff saying they couldn’t help, or making promises but taking no action. It says. Eventually he gave up. Others say they only got paid for messaging company executives on LinkedIn or posting on his company’s Facebook and Instagram pages.
Mach has grown rapidly over the past two years. Records show the company has averaged 9,542 temps a month in 2021 from his 5,783 in 2020, with turnover nearly doubling from £110m to £200m. , profit before tax tripled to £3.8m.
The company’s ads, which target job seekers, paint a glossy picture. Earlier this month, the company launched a campaign to attract employees, including “ambassadors” for PrettyLittleThing, a fashion brand known for its affordable clothing. love island Starring Molly-May Haig and Gemma Owen. The ad promises that employees will benefit from a “friendly environment” and earn “excellent hourly wages” starting at £9.90. In a previous recruiting drive, Mach posted a video on his TikTok of workers dancing in his PLT warehouse. Most recently, he owns Littlewoods and also works with The Very Group to recruit food warehouses across the UK.
Jamie Woodcock, author gig economy A senior lecturer in business administration at the University of Essex said Mach’s practices were “highly exploitative” and that low-wage workers could receive less than the minimum wage. Underpaying and systematically underpaying vacations can get you sued in court, but what keeps labor costs down by far is the fact that many people are unwilling or unable to pursue it. because I don’t know,” he said.
As with wage issues, many of the complaints against Mach relate to workers not being paid the vacation they deserve. Temporary workers have fewer rights than permanent employees, but are entitled to at least 5.6 weeks of paid vacation per year.
Lee Robson, 47, was working the night shift at Boohoo’s Burnley warehouse until October 2021 and hadn’t taken a vacation in between, so he thought he’d get by on a lump sum until he started a new job. When he received the final salary packet, he said, holiday pay was not included.
When he called Mach’s office, he was told he had to fill out a form, but even after filling it out, he said he hadn’t been paid. They were ignoring me, blocking my number, or giving me to someone else,” he said.
One day, about three months later, £380 was credited to his bank account without any explanation. He believes Mach paid him because he was “pussy”, but believes not everyone worked as hard as he did. ‘ he said.
Steve Smalley, a father of two, said after quitting his job at Curry’s warehouse in Newark, Lincolnshire in January, he understandably didn’t automatically receive his leave.
When he raises the issue of Mach, he says, “Left, right and center went blank.” He claims he only received an outstanding £180 in April after messaging his senior manager on LinkedIn to avoid going to court. I started getting texts saying “Shifts are available”. I thought, ‘Chucky guys,'” he said.
Nick Clark of the Unpaid Britain Project, which has investigated wage theft in the UK, said the Mach problem was a “familiar story” and similar to cases in other fields. He called for a more effective crackdown and said the system needed to be improved to hold “repeated abusers” accountable. He said the court could fine the employer if he behaved “especially badly”, but that power was “rarely used”. “I don’t think I’m watching,” he said.
Ryan Bradshaw, a lawyer who specializes in employment cases at law firm Lee Day, said companies that outsource hiring to third-party firms have a “moral” policy to ensure workers are properly compensated. responsible,” he said. “Outsourcing allows companies to shift responsibility onto someone else. Not paying enough attention.
Tom Zyzak, Managing Director of Mach Recruitment, said: The -19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown period closed offices, sites and businesses. When we learned of these, we immediately initiated legal proceedings to challenge the claims, as we believe these to be baseless. The UK court system experiences a serious backlog of all court cases, so many of these are still being processed. ”
When asked for more information, the company said it “can’t go into many details because it’s a work in progress,” but it disputes all rulings.
All workers are given paid time off and bonuses, Zyzak said, and Mach works closely with clients to ensure they are paid correctly. He said the company is aware of “many issues that have impacted its normally quick resolution times” and has expanded its team, building new systems to “monitor and resolve all of them.” “I’ve been working hard for six months,” he said. Queries in a timely manner. “We’re processing payroll for up to 15,000 employees each week, and employees have multiple channels of communication and escalate questions accordingly,” he said.
Currys said outsourcing partner GXO is investigating Mach. “In line with our rigorous supply chain due diligence process, we expect the rigorous standards we set for auditing our suppliers will be maintained,” he said.
Sainsbury’s did not comment on specific cases, but said suppliers are expected to comply with laws and industry good practices and that they regularly review their partners.
Berry Group plans to work with agents to resolve payment issues expeditiously, to ensure “continuous dialogue” with Mach and partners, and to ensure “strong temporary colleague policy” is adhered to said it is.
The government said it could not comment on individual cases, but it takes the protection of agency workers “very seriously” and the Bureau of Standards and Inspection of the Employment Agency has an “excellent track record in protecting agency workers”. He added that he has
Precious Ebere, 29, who immigrated to the UK from Nigeria to study public policy, co-founded the nonprofit Do Take Action, which campaigns on social issues, worked several shifts while working in a warehouse. said he had not been paid. She will move to Cardiff via Mach in 2021. I went to the office and said, “I need money.” By that time, I had lost my home. I was short of money. It was really bad,” she said.
Four months after challenging the manager, Ebere received his compensation, according to the email. But she said many others were afraid to speak up. work very hard and they don’t even pay us,” she said. “It makes you feel worthless. They need to be held accountable.”