The industry's long-hours culture will remain unless more hospitality staff resort to whistle-blowing and take legal action against their employers, say legal experts and unions.
Hospitality bosses flouting the working time regulations are likely to get away with it, they say, because only a minority of union member and higher-paid workers are prepared to complain.
Margaret Davis, employment law partner at solicitors Field, Fisher and Waterhouse, said that Health & Safety Executive officers lacked the time to uphold the regulations. But lower-paid workers scared of losing their jobs were less likely to challenge their hours than higher grades such as pub managers (see panel).
Most vulnerable, said Robert Badlan, the GMB union's London regional officer for food and leisure, were shift workers such as banqueting and bar staff who frequently worked extra hours until premises closed without agreements on overtime or rest periods.
The prime offenders, said Badlan, were small- and medium-sized businesses that were not keeping records of hours worked and did not expect to be inspected.
Nicholas Robertson, partner in the employment and industrial relations group of law firm Rowe & Maw, agreed that working time regulations were being ignored, but added that new rights due next summer for union representation would create "a radical alteration".
by Angela Frewin
Time called on pub hours?
Pub landlord Angus Morrison won an undisclosed amount of compensation against the Tetley Pub Company and Allied Domecq last week for mental health problems suffered from working an 118-hour week (against an average 66.89 hours) while his Stone Trough pub in Rawdon, Leeds, was converted into a Big Steak pub in 1994.
And two Bass pub managers in the West Midlands who work an average 85-hour week are to make a potentially precedent-setting High Court challenge to the exclusion of "managing executives" from the 48-hour-per-week limit next month (Caterer, 21 October, page 6).