Staff at the chicken chain Nando’s claim they sometimes have to clean its restaurants without pay.
Current and former Nando’s employees at multiple restaurants told the BBC they had to scrub cookers and disinfect toilets after being clocked out.
One claimed the same mops were used in toilets and kitchens while another said they handled chicken without gloves.
Nando’s said it was its policy to pay employees properly and it upholds the highest cleaning standards.
Most of its branches do not employ dedicated cleaners – which Nando’s described as standard across the food service industry.
The company, which has more than 400 restaurants in the UK, added: “Cleaning is an integral part of restaurant work and is crucial to maintaining high standards of health and hygiene, which we take very seriously.”
‘Should work faster’
Thousands of people have signed an online petition calling on Nando’s to review its cleaning and pay policies.
“The managers would clock us out early and not adjust for late stays. If we complained, we were simply told we should have worked faster,” people commenting on the petition claimed.
The BBC spoke to five current and former Nando’s staff – dubbed “Nandocas” by the company – they all requested anonymity.
For most, Nando’s was their first job. Collectively they worked in seven different restaurants across England and Scotland within the past 12 months.
They were broadly complimentary about Nando’s as a workplace. “You do make friends… it’s social,” one said. “It’s saved me £45 a week in free food,” another added.
But almost all highlighted problems with how closing shifts are managed and some alleged incidents of poor cleaning practices.
They all described closing shifts as ending when a manager – known as a “Patrao” – signed off the restaurant as ready for the next day.
The system automatically clocks staff out unless managers override it, but that did not always happen, the workers claimed.
“I would get my payslip on a Friday and find I’d have less money than expected because they didn’t put in the hours on my closing shifts,” a 22-year-old, who we’re calling Suzanne, said.
“There was a time where we’d run over and finished around 02:30 in the morning and the managers had already put it through the system and they wouldn’t add on the extra hours.”
“You would be usually clocked out early and I thought that was a normal thing. I just thought they pay us for extra hours,” 19-year-old Jenny, not her real name, who worked at a Nando’s in Cheshire said.
“I did ask colleagues ‘are we actually getting paid?’ and they said… ‘we don’t actually get paid, you have to bug them for it’.
“You have to ask [managers] ‘can I have the extra pay for the close’ and they wouldn’t always actually do it.”
One current member of staff who works in the kitchen of a Nando’s in the south-west of England said that he was almost always paid properly for overtime.
But there were occasional mistakes. “We had this one staff member who, when [his hours] got put through completely wrong, didn’t get paid so the manager gave him the money out of his own pocket,” the 20-year-old said.
‘Same mops used’
Several of those the BBC spoke to said Nando’s uses an industry-standard colour-coded system to separate cleaning equipment. For example, a green mop is used in kitchens, while a red mop is used to clean toilets.
Suzanne, who worked at a Nando’s in Manchester city centre, claimed she rarely saw the red mop head used in the 12 months she worked there.
“The kitchen staff will close first… they wouldn’t really take the time out to use the correct coloured mop,” she said.
“You can use any bucket or any mop, which was a huge problem because whatever is in the kitchen would be contaminated in the toilets.”
Meanwhile, Jenny claimed she was required to cook chicken and clean toilets without protection for a week due to a supply issue.
“That means that raw chicken was being racked [cooked] without hair nets or gloves and also toilets had to be cleaned when we didn’t have the option of wearing gloves at all,” she said.
Nando’s – which has around 20,000 staff in Britain – has also responded to complaints which mention unpaid overtime and arduous cleaning duties made on the employment review website Glassdoor.
Employment lawyer Katie Mahoney said managers’ control of the clocking out system could be a breach of trust which may “entitle the employee to resign and claim constructive dismissal”.
“Depending on the terms of the contract, they may also be able to argue that the failure to pay them for the hours they have actually worked has resulted in an unlawful deduction from their wages,” she added.
The petition calling on Nando’s to review its cleaning and pay policies was created on the campaigns website Organise, which told the BBC it is supported by 551 people who said they work there. It has so far gained more than 3,700 signatures.
The BBC understands the company has “reinforced” its clocking-out policy to managers as a result of the petition.
Organise founder Nat Whalley said: “Hundreds of Nando’s staff are now speaking up together to stamp out missing pay.”
A Nando’s spokesperson told the BBC: “We wholeheartedly refute the accusation that we would ask or expect our employees to do unpaid work.
“Without exception, our policy across all our restaurants is to pay all of our employees for all the work they do, and we take this incredibly seriously.
“If human error ever does occur, it is rectified without delay.”
“As is standard across the industry, cleaning is an essential role for employees, and this is made clear to all job applicants,” they added.
“Cleaning is an integral part of restaurant work and is crucial to maintaining high standards of health and hygiene, which we take very seriously. Any employee who is asked to clean is given full training.”
The spokesperson said: “99% of our restaurants across the country have a rating of four or five under the Food Hygiene Scheme”.
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