by Nigel Packer
Many workers in the hotel and catering sector will remain unprotected from unfair dismissal even after the Government's proposed Fairness At Work legislation, a new report warns.
The Low Pay Network says nearly half of those in the sector who encounter problems with employers have been in their jobs less than 12 months. As a result they will still not be able to claim unfair dismissal when the length-of-employment threshold for making such claims is reduced from two years to one.
The Here Today - Sacked Tomorrow report says 33% of hotel and catering staff who have recently contacted agencies for advice on employment rights had less than six months' service in their job, while a further 13% had less than one year's service.
The report's author, Susan Kirkham, argues that "workers should have the right to seek redress from day one of their employment," and highlights a number of cases in which catering staff have suffered unfair treatment at the hand of employers.
One chef earning £3 an hour was dismissed after three months, without notice or warnings, for "not being suitable" at a time when there was a fall-off in trade; and in another case a catering assistant was sacked after being off work sick for three days.
Catering and hotel work is also identified as being among the lowest-paid occupations, with an average hourly rate "well below £3.50". One waitress who contacted the Low Pay Network was earning £12.50 for an eight-hour shift, according to the report.