Thursday, 28 November 2013

Working at JD Wetherspoon

When I attended the induction training session before starting my position as Kitchen Associate I did not get off to the best start. I was asked to arrive at 12pm and leave at 6pm, although when I arrived I was told that the session had been changed from 3pm to 9pm. It seems ridiculous that I travelled for 45 minutes to another city for this event and there was not much point in going home, so I waited 3 hours for the training to start. Thankfully due to my pub’s mistake I was paid for the extra hours.

I did find the session informative as the company really sold itself to me and the training process seemed very efficient. However, when I started working at the pub I was encouraged to rush through the training work books, which meant I had to pick up most of what I was doing as I went along. Inevitably this usually meant I made a lot of mistakes, which my colleagues sometimes responded to by shouting at me and treating me with little respect. I am no culinary expert, but this is probably quite dangerous when working with food. The kitchen was also hazardous due to holes in the laminate floor, the largest of which were opposite the clam grill and fryers and the other was near the de-carbonizer (a piece of equipment containing strong chemicals used to clean the grill bars). These gradually became bigger as people tripped over them, but I heard that the management was reluctant to repair them as the kitchen would have to be closed for several days, which would mean a loss of profit.

When the hole first appeared

A potential hazard of the hole could 
have been tripping over near the 
fryers and the clam grill

The state of the main hole shortly 
before I left and several months 
after it appeared

At the time I was working at the pub, the regulations for breaks were as follows; 30 minutes for 6 to 8 hours, 45 minutes for 8 to 10 hours and 1 hour for 12 hours. Hence, if you are working a shift covering breakfast, lunch and dinner you are often forced to choose which meal you would prefer to eat. Furthermore, the majority of meals that JD Wetherspoon offers cost more than the £5.50 hourly rate for under 21s that I was earning, which seems unreasonable considering the amount of meals that are sold and the fact that a profit is even made on products sold to employees after their 50% discount whilst on shift. After discovering this I would not eat food from work and bought my meal of the day from elsewhere.

I do not think there were enough people working in the kitchen at many times due to management decisions or illness. As a result the time at which many employees could take a break was limited so we would have to take it at the beginning or end of our shifts. Some employees even had to sacrifice their break so someone would not be left in the kitchen alone during a busy period. My longest shift was from 11am to 2am (15 hours) due to employee illness, during which time I had a 30 minute break. The longest period I worked without a day off was 8 days. The consequences of this were fatigue and severe pains in my feet and ankles, which caused difficulties in walking both inside and outside work. Even now I sometimes still experience problems as a result of this.

Washing up during Reading festival:
one of the pub's busiest times

I only worked at JD Wetherspoon for just over 3 months, but this was more than enough time to become incredibly miserable for the above reasons. I could not sleep well due to stress and I cried most days. I often woke from nightmares about work and even 2 months later I sometimes still have them. My situation was not as bad as other people's because I was working to save up to study abroad and was living at my mother’s house so I did not need to worry about paying rent. I have no idea how employees who have to pay rent or who are trying to provide for a family can survive on this wage, especially after tax. For some time I was working 2 other jobs, which I was able to quit after a short time due to the level of pressure. I chose to continue working at JD Wetherspoon as opposed to the other jobs because I was able to work more hours with a slightly higher pay, but I now regret this and wish I had stayed elsewhere. I know I wasn’t the only employee in my pub who was working more than one job, but I was lucky enough to have the choice of leaving my other jobs, whilst other employees had no choice but to work another job to survive.

I understand that JD Wetherspoon highly values the importance of customer service. I suggest that with the provision of appropriate necessities for employees, the standard of JD Wetherspoon customer service will improve. Without appropriately managing their employees, I do not believe that they can expect to receive the best effort from them.

I was made aware that JD Wetherspoon plc was awarded the Top Employers United Kingdom 2013 certification. I wrote to Top Employers Institute about my experience whilst working for JD Wetherspoon in order to justify my disagreement with their claims that the company “provides exceptional employee conditions” and is “always striving to optimise its employment practices and to develop its employees”, but received no response.

I did contact JD Wetherspoon through Twitter, Facebook, email and writing in order to make a formal complaint. After a lengthy succession of emails, being unable to attend a grievance meeting at a week's notice (and conveniently being offered no alternative date) and a subsequent 'investigation', this was the outcome (I have removed the name of the employee for privacy):

Wednesday 9th April 2014

Dear Lauren

Further to your communication to the company, following your resignation in September 2013, you have raised a number of concerns regarding your employment.

I am the Area Manager for Reading and your grievance letter dated 20th December 2013 has been forwarded to me for response, as detailed in communications via email.

Please accept my apologies for the delay in responding to you in writing, however I have now investigated the complaints you made and detail my outcome below:-

1. Induction Training – I apologise that there appeared to be some confusion over the induction timings. Our induction training is a set 6 hours and normally this is held between 12 noon – 6 pm. However on this occasion due to staffing issues the induction training was split.

2. Training was rushed – The Company’s aim is to ensure that our employees are compliant with all statutory training and key “ways of working” in the first 12 weeks of employment, through a number of methods; “on the job” training, e-learning; training books and coaching/mentoring. We encourage our employees to undertake the tasks with guidance during this period and we find that all employees work at different pace.

3. Breaks – Our break entitlement was in line with employment legislation and we often found that individuals had longer breaks than stipulated in the employee handbook through the discretion of their manager.

4. Kitchen floor – The floor has now been replaced fully and the Company takes its health and safety of its employees very seriously. I note you mention that it was a trip hazard however we have planned maintenance programme to identify such issues and these are prioritised based on risk. I have reviewed the A&I logs during the 6 months preceding your resignation date and there are no incidents logged.

5. Cost of food – The Company offers 50% discount off food and soft drinks whilst on duty including one hour before or one hour after finishing your rota’d shift, which we believe to be a competitive benefit in the market place.

6. Staffing levels – I note your comments regarding the fact that you believed on occasions there were not enough individuals in the kitchen. The rota is completed by the management team based on sales projected for the week and therefore normally there should be the right levels of employees both front of house and in the kitchen. On occasions, for a number of reasons this may not be the case however without any specific dates I am able to investigate this further.

7. Hours of Work - In the main your average hours of work were 30 per week with at least two days off each week. Having reviewed the rota there was one occasion where, over a 2 week period you worked 8 days in a row, however in the two week period you did have 5 days off work.

8. Length of Shift – You refer to fact that you were requested to work a 15 hour shift due to an employee being absent. I have reviewed your rota’s and I am unable to identify this shift.

I trust the above clarifies the points that you have raised and would like to thank you for the time to write to us to raise your issues. I trust the above adequately responds to these. I confirm that as you have raised this grievance after your employment with JD Wetherspoon has ended; there is no requirement to provide a right of appeal.

I would like to wish you the very best in with your future travels.

Yours sincerely

Area Manager

I believe that the quotes below indicate a lack communication within the company and inadequate employee training. He is effectively accusing me of lying, but I can assure you that I haven't and that my account is as accurate as I can remember.

I have reviewed the A&I logs during the 6 months preceding your resignation date and there are no incidents logged.

Accidents did not seem to be taken seriously and I was unaware of where to find the A&I logs. It was not actually me who suffered the accidents as a result of the dangerous flooring, but other employees, therefore it was not my responsibility to record it.

On occasions, for a number of reasons this may not be the case however without any specific dates I am able to investigate this further.
I have reviewed your rota’s and I am unable to identify this shift.

Records were obviously not updated when an employee was absent and another employee covered their shift, which is why he is unable to identify the illegal lengths of time that I was required to work.

In the main your average hours of work were 30 per week with at least two days off each week.

 This was because I worked part time for the first month and became full time after that.


  1. I am just about to hand in my notice after working for the company for 2 and a half years. Although I worked Front of house as opposed to kitchen, I fully get where you're coming from, and I'm not sure how they so openly boast about winning 'employee of the year' when where I work staff have walked out in the space of 20 minutes. I do 6pm-2/3am always without a break because it's so busy and it's just a nightmare!! Sorry for the rant, but, I feel ya, sista.

    1. Thanks for your comment. Congratulations on leaving! Working for them for that long must have been difficult, its very admirable that you managed to stay there for so long. I really encourage you to write about your experience both online and in a letter to JD Wetherspoon. Hopefully the more they hear about these kinds of issues, the more likely they are to make the changes needed! All the best for the future.

  2. My husband started working for Wetherspoons last month and as I am at home looking after our two young children (5 and 3) the wage he receives (7.25) sounds good doesn't it? well its not as he is contracted to 40 hours a week yet his first 2 wages certainly do not reflect 40 hours. both weeks wages have been under £150. He is a fully trained chef but as we have children we felt working there would be better family time wise, which it is but money wise its not working out and we are stuck as to what to do next

    1. Hi Angela
      That's really awful, certainly not enough to support a family. It sounds like he needs a decent contract, and I don't think that's something that you can rely on JD Wetherspoon to provide.
      As I've said in a previous post, I really encourage you to write about your experience both online and in a letter to JD Wetherspoon. Hopefully the more they hear about these kinds of issues, the more likely they are to make the changes needed! All the best for the future.

  3. I work at Wetherspoons in Rochester in the kitchen and its a fantastic job working in a team striving for perfection - wages not great but hours available and friendly diverse employees make it a great place to work. training is cool and your learn a lot - pot wash is busy but so is any kitchens pot wash - maybe catering is not for you as this on a cv makes a good impression if you have taken the training. promotion opportunities internally are also there for all.

    1. I'm glad you enjoy your job. I think it is very much dependent on the manager and co-workers, which was negative in my experience but seems to be positive in yours, which is great!
      My main point was not to complain about the pot wash as I understand that this is busy in every kitchen, but rather to complain about the general organisation of the kitchen and the management's treatment of their employees.

  4. Just stumbled across this blog as I was researching the law and company policy on breaks - I feel the exact same! I haven't even been working at Wetherspoon's for a month and I'm going through the stress nightmare thing. This job should only be temporary, hopefully til September at the very latest, but we'll see. I absolutely hate it for all the reasons you mentioned. Absolutely dreading my next shift. -Imogen

    1. All new beginners of the company have the exact same thought process. The original post on this blog was almost 5 years ago and I can guarantee Wetherspoons have changed a whole lot since then. What most people fail to do in this industry is ask people things they don't know. Every single rule and policy is within the legislation's just like any other industry you work in. Having worked for the company myself it's not Wetherspoons as a whole it's the pub that is being run; all JD Wetherspoon pubs are ran exactly the same the only differences are staff, management and the area managers. Rather than write a blog and complain about the ways it's 'not' being ran according, bring up a grievance inside work, then they have to look at your comments and make improvements. Not only that but you say you wasn't sure how to log an A&I report, all you simply had to do was ask a member of staff or management team and they would of guided you through it, plus there is every SOP the company has on your online training for easy access. The company cannot and would not make you do a 15 hour shift to cover someones sickness they would ask you and you have the right to say no and there is nothing they could have done about it. If nothing is ever said about concerns then nothing will ever change.

    2. I hope things get better for you and you are able to leave in September! Keep holding on in there, Imogen!

      I am glad to hear that Wetherspoon has changed since then, although I guess it depends a lot on each pub and its management, as you said. I have my doubts that is has actually changed based on recent comments. This was 5 years ago, and my memories aren’t that clear (I guess I also tried to block them out), so I don’t feel that I can respond to your comment that well. I’m a different person and a lot more confident than I was 5 years ago. I agree that I should have asked when I wasn’t sure about something, brought these grievances up inside work, and refused the 15-hour shift. This is something that I have done in my previous workplace. However, at Wetherspoon, I was concerned that I would be punished if I did these things and lose my job as a result. I don’t think I mentioned it on this blog post, but I was also bullied at the work place (someone used to shout and throw utensils at me, which is also a health and safety risk), which further undermined my confidence to the point that I was crying and fearful before each shift. I found that smokers often got more breaks, so when I was working with all men, I pretended that I was on my period so that I could rest by sitting on the toilet, and men rarely questioned it. I wrote this blog post to raise awareness of issues I’ve faced whilst working in the catering industry and offer a platform for support for others who are going/have been through the same (I have also written blog posts about my other workplaces). Its main purpose was not to try and make improvements, I already felt pretty hopeless about that possibility, and I’d rather use my time addressing more important problems.

    3. This is a contradicting reply as you stated your memories aren't clear yet you included in your reply about the bullying. Again should of gone to management and if they preceded to do nothing about it then you contact head office. There was so many things you could of done to stop this from happening and so many tools you could of used. Yes if there was bullying that is not ok by any means and needed to be addressed but the management team, pub managers, etc. are unaware of this issues unless they are brought to light, only then can they be dealt with. I do sympathise with you on many levels of your experience at Wetherspoon's however you could of made some important decisions and actions yourself so the entire blog is a little baffling how it could be elaborately be spoken about but on your own head nothing was done about it from your side.

    4. I don’t easily forget someone shouting and throwing utensils at me, but I do easily forget Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) after spending the past 5 years living in three different countries and studying two different languages (more important information that I would rather focus on).

      The kitchen manager talked about how he hired girls based on appearance so that they could put the ‘hot’ ones on the bar and ‘ugly’ ones in the kitchen. He was also having an affair with one of the kitchen staff, which was particularly awkward when there was a shift with just the three of us and they were making out. There were also rumors of staff having sex in the walk-in fridge, and another member of kitchen staff had claimed that he had slept with every girl working in the pub at one point. These aren’t the kind of ‘professionals’ that I trust with a complaint. I’m fairly sure they would have just laughed at me and made my living hell even worse. As you can see from what I’ve written above, my complaints did end up going to the area manager, who disregarded them because of my rushed training, the management’s inability to inform me of where to find the A&I logs, other staff’s failure to log an A&I report, and the management’s apparent inability to update records.

      I also had a terrible experience working at Subway, and I ended up taking my complaints to their head office, at which point I was told that I would need to find myself a lawyer and go to court. As I was 17 years old at the time (and living on £3.57 an hour), I didn’t have access to the kind of money needed for a lawyer. I didn’t think the situation would be any better, if not worse, if I had taken the complaint to the Wetherspoon head office.

      You also haven’t addressed other issues that I’ve brought up in this blog post, such as the low pay, and staff having to work multiple jobs in order to survive. If you’re such a huge fan of Wetherspoon, perhaps you should use your time trying to improve it for people like me and Imogen rather than anonymously undermining us by trying to prove that our experiences are unjustifiable.

  5. I will stay anonymous purely for the fact I have no interest exposing my name. Help people like you and Imogen? No I only spend what spare time I do have helping to improve the pub I've worked in, better training for staff, etc. Like I've said before if issues aren't bought to the attention of necessary people then it will never be sorted. From what you've said that you had issues in Subway as well. I think its your own work abilities that are issues as well as some issues from the work places. I just think slandering a company on a blog is pointless and childish. I am a big fan of Wetherspoons thank you because I can see where it's heading and where it came from because I like to widen my knowledge and experience in all aspects of the pub so yes while they do have a few issues just like any other company in the world they have delegated roles in which can fix these problems.

    Hope you find a job that is up to your standard, or why don't you just start your own business and see how difficult it can be at times :)