UPDATE 05. August 2021
The UK Government is naming and shaming companies that didn’t pay staff, amongst which of course is Pret A Manger:
“Pret A Manger (Europe) Limited, Westminster, SW1E, failed to pay £9679.91 to 33 workers”
Link to Govt. site
And upfront, if you are new to my blog and read through the below wage theft issues in Pret, and you have been a longtime customer, you may think that Pret is generous. You may remember the £1000 announcement that former Pret CEO Clive Schlee did in 2018, well guess how that came about?! Spoiler alert: he made that announcement in the early hours after he was informed about my blog. More and in detail here: The Day Clive Schlee had a Bright Idee.
Pret has settled twice in NY on wage theft and repaid 4000 workers. The wage theft in Pret is rampant, also in the UK. I had to chase my money countless times for years, even my last pay. In the UK workers hardly go to court because the legal system is very different and the rewards very low.
At the bottom of this page I list a host of tricks Managers use to cheat already low-wage and overworked staff out of their pay. I explain also how management manipulate staff to get free labour out of them. I speak from own experience and what colleagues told me, as well as what staff write on review sites and social media.
A 2019 staff review from New York, from an all-rounder employee doing different tasks as Pret chronically under-staffs to maximize profit:
Another review about chasing £100 payment and HQ staff playing dumb:
A fed up staff member who confronts Pret on Twitter after not getting anywhere via phone or emails:
… and many more.
Pret A Manger settles its second WAGE THEFT lawsuit
One very detailed review touches on several issues in Pret, including sick-pay and takes a much closer look than most staff do:
Link to the review which is worth reading in full. But a few highlights, quote:
»Pret seems perfect if you throw it a quick look. Great pay, great food, great team mates, everyone’s so happy and friendly all the time… did you know that we have to? The “perfect Pret” standards state that the Pret employee is happy all the time, never drepressed. Not kidding, it’s printed in our locker. Sometimes it can be challenging maintaining a natural smile on my face for 8 hours straight. …
1. I recently had to call in sick, and it led to 2 days off work. When I logged in online on the website, it showed me someone put two different illnesses for those 2 days, and most oddly, both very wrong. I have already spoken to the managers about it, so how could they have gotten it wrong, as they wrote it down on the form in front of me? Intrigued, I looked into it a bit more (I have also realized, there is no one colleague of mine that bothered going into such depth researching). There is a very small subsection of a subsection on the website that states, in summary, you get paid, as a part-time worker, from the second day of illness, and as a full-time worker, from the third. I am part-time. I should have been paid for my second day. But what did Pret do? They put two different illnesses, so they don’t have to pay me (it counts as the first day of illness, for both days).
I have talked to some colleagues, they never got paid, no matter how long they have been working there for (the little subsection also states that if you’re more than 12 months older in the company, you’ll get wellness pay. For more information, please visit this website – followed by a broken link. That’s a lot of weird coincidences, isn’t it? …
Not everyone is like that though, there are some nice people, who don’t deserve to be associated with what I wrote. I am not discontinuing my contract with them because of these things either (mostly because I just need to make rent). I just feel very strongly that the general public view of this company is very far off from the truth, and I believe in using my voice.«
Please just read the full review, it’s very well exposed how Pret is cheating.
And a little reminder on what ONE man received on BONUS alone! Not to mention what all the other execs and shareholders receive.
Prat A Manger’s tricks and tactic to cheat staff out of their pay:
Upfront, to any Pret staff and any low-wage fast-food worker in general, ALWAYS write down the hours that you worked to compare to your payslip. I had a spreadsheet at home where I updated when I worked extra hours when and where. And I also made notes IMMEDIATELY on my phone when asked if I could work an extra hour, as I sometimes forgot to add extra hours to the spreadsheet at home. If I would not have done this, I would have worked for free for months as an hour here and an hour there adds up over 10 years. ALWAYS write down the ACTUAL hours you worked even to 15 minutes! Do the math, it adds up quickly!
Yes, there are genuine mistakes Managers do when they forget to add extra hours worked. But 1. it’s NOT a genuine mistake when this happens almost every week, and 2. it’s not genuine when the mistake is ALWAYS for the benefit of the Manager (bonus) and Pret! I cannot remember that any Manager accidentally overpaid me! Never! So, write down your hours and don’t let the Manager confuse or threaten you when you confront them on missing hours! A CLASSIC tactic by management is that they don’t have time to talk to you. KEEP BOTHERING THEM UNTIL YOU GOT YOUR CORRECT PAY! Keep a clear mind and trust YOURSELF! And join a Union!
- Extra hours not paid: The most common way Pret tricks staff out of pay is that the Manager asks a Team Member (TM) if they can work 1 hour more due to extra busyness or someone called sick. Yet, let’s be frank, shops are ALWAYS understaffed! The TM works the extra hour(s) and then the Manager “forgets” to pay the extra hour(s).
THIS HAPPENS ESPECIALLY when you work to help out in a different shop for a day or a week! The Manager of the other shop where you help out HOPES that you 1. don’t realize that they didn’t pay the extra hour and 2. that you can’t be bothered to contact that shop as you have to look up the phone number or go to your own home shop Manager to speak to the other Manager etc.
Only in hindsight do I understand this trick. The Manager of the other shop where you help out for a day asks one of his own Team Members to come in 1 hour later than scheduled. Then the Manager turns around and asks me if I can stay 1 hour longer (where his own TM would have worked). Then the Manager “forgets” to pay me, and thus gets an hour of free labour!
Asking his own TM to come an hour later. Asking me to stay 1 hour longer, doesn’t pay in hopes I don’t notice, the perfect way to get free labour! This is two-fold a cheat: his own TM is cheated out of 1 hour work and with it pay which I then work for, and I am cheated out of pay after having worked that TMs hour!
When a Manager has a Team of around 25 staff and the Manager “forgets” to pay EACH TM 1 hour per week. Do the math on how much money they save per week, per month, per year! It’s like thieves who steal credit card information, they don’t wipe out the victims bank account when they steal CC numbers. They just go shopping a little bit here and a little bit there. The victim never knows that money is being REGULARLY stolen in small numbers and thus never reports it to stop the card being used.
Same with shop Managers, they steal 1 hour here, 2 hours there, taking hours from several staff members in hopes no-one notices. And if they notice and confront the Manager, well it’s “just” 1 hour here and there! The Manager plays stupid and staff continue to give the benefit of the doubt. I had a Manager who tried his luck with me in a very blunt way once after I was sick for ONE day. By “mistake” he clicked 3 days in the computer instead of 1 day sickness! Thus he cheated me out of 14 hours (2x 7 hours per day). More on this further below on another trick.
- Giving little time to do the job, then demanding to stay longer and not paying for overtime: This is the Pret-wide system. Staff are given VERY little time to do their job. Especially in the kitchen staff are expected to do their “bench” (amount of sandwiches/products for the shift) in a certain time. The times are unrealistic. So, either people cheat and don’t do the products properly cutting corners, or they are manipulated and told that they didn’t work well or fast enough, therefore have to stay longer UNPAID!
Reality is, staff work EXTREMELY hard, fast and well under immense stress. But they get lied to, pressured, bullied, manipulated, and even sweet-talked to work longer for no pay! This staff review is THE most poignant I have found so far on Pret! I often use it in blog posts and on Twitter as this is THE BEST way to describe work conditions in Pret.
I even made an own YouTube slide out of this review because no other review describes Pret A Manger in a nutshell like this person’s does!
- Link to review on Indeed
- Late Rotas: Rotas in Pret are supposed to be done 2 weeks in advance, but this never happens as Managers juggle the hours according to business needs. Managers KNOW they need more staff and more hours for them, but plan the rota VERY TIGHT and publish the rota in the staff room just 1 day before the new week starts. Staff can never plan ahead for their free time as Pret secretly demands staff to be on call 24/7 but pretend that rotas have to be done 2 weeks in advance. But it never happens.
The Manager then puts me on my contracted hours on the rota, which are now 28 hours, but they know already that I will be working 40 – 60 hours as shops are purposely under-staffed to make as much money as possible and also to not waste money if the shops are quiet. I then work my usual 5 hours but will be asked every day if I can work longer! I agree because I am naive, hard working and give smiley Pret the benefit of the doubt.
Then I forget to check my payslip the following week as I am too exhausted and also forgot to write down the extra hours. And I never realize how much on a regular basis I am being cheated out of my pay.
- Delegating jobs close to finishing time: Another common trick is, the Manager asks you 5 minutes before your shift is finished to “quickly” do a task, like cleaning the Hot Chef baking trays or whatever other “quick” job. They know this will take at least 10 – 15 minutes, and because you don’t want to come across not being helpful, you agree. You then work around 15 minutes for free! Do this 2 or 3 times a week with new tasks the Manager comes up with, and you’re cheated out of 3 – 4 hours per month. So, Managers sit in the office checking Facebook while you work on the tills. And just before you finish your shift, the Manger or Team Leader comes out and asks if you can do this quick job, which in reality takes 15 minutes to do!
After years of bullsh!t like this, I said to any new Manger who tried to pull that number on me, “Sorry, I have to leave for an appointment”. End of. They don’t need to know the reason for me leaving sharp at my finished time. My appointment may be to meet with a friend for the cinema or to walk a dog or to do some much needed self-care in taking my usual shower and go for a nap after an intensely stressful shift. It’s not their business why I have to leave, but I had no benefit of the doubt anymore to give away after years of BS like this!
- Stealing from FREE Time: A systemic issue by cheating staff is to give them training material to read DURING their breaks or free time instead of training them in their PAID time during the shift! Training in Pret is appalling which I write extensively about in my open “letter” to the Prosecutor in the recent allergen trial. Staff are NOT fully trained, but instead are explained things in a rushed manner and given stuff to read during their break or at home. Pret stopped paying for breaks, so staff now have UNPAID breaks.
But even while it was paid, Managers often want staff to “work” DURING their break. People read training material during breaks INSTEAD of resting from the intense work. I was often asked by management when I sat at a window for example, with the view to the outside tables, to keep checking the tables. When a customer left we had 1 minute to clear and clean the tables or risk losing Mystery Shopper bonus. So, I then started looking for spots to sit where I was with my back to the shop or I put my head down on my phone with my headphones on. So, even paid breaks where used to utilize staff to work or learn instead of leaving them the fuck alone to rest for 30 minutes! Exploitation on every turn in Pret!
- Spreading out costs and pay: Back to the 14 hours my Manager didn’t pay by “mistakenly” adding 2 extra sick days. When I confronted him, he profusely apologized and then with a puppy look in his eyes asked me if he can re-pay in the coming 4 weeks and spread it out. I was new in Pret, naive and stupid, so I agreed. In reality I should have demanded the full 14 hour pay on THAT day! Pret and any company can do this. The Manager could and should have just send an urgent email to the payroll department to pay me the 14 hours THAT day! I was paid once in the same day from Pret on another issue.
So, the Manager tries his luck and steals 5, 10 or more hours in ONE week, then when confronted he asks if he can reimburse spreading out over several weeks. This was his main goal from the get go to steal hours first, waiting to be confronted, and then wanting to spread out the pay. Spreading out costs will add to the Manager’s bonus. Two tricks the Manager tries: 1. steal a lot of hours in hopes the staff don’t realize. Then 2. when confronted, spread out the back pay in small installments to gain more bonus for the Manager.
Any current Pret staff reading this, if you are asked if the missing pay can be added over another week(s), say NO and demand your full pay TODAY! You have no money already, you have bills piling up, and all the Manager and Pret are doing, is taking from YOU and adding to their profit and to THEIR pay!
If your manager looks at you with their puppy eyes and asking you to spread the repay over several weeks, always have ONE number in front of your minds eye: £30,000,000!
Clive Schlee, former CEO of Pret, received £30 MILLION on bonus alone!!! That was “just” his bonus, not to mention his annual salary! And add to that all the other executives working for Pret in Head Office and elsewhere and find a bucket to vomit into at the sheer number they earn on your backs! This IS about the rich taking from the poor and exploiting at every turn possible!
- Managers look for any way to NOT pay bonus. In their own discretion Managers can withdraw bonus when a staff member is even just 1 minute late for work. One colleague got his bonus scrapped because he turned up for work with a 3-day old beard after having had the weekend off. Pret demands that staff tell Pret BEFOREHAND if a guy wants to grow a beard! I have to find the info in the paper I still have. So, our bullying Manager just took that as an excuse to withdraw the bonus from my colleague. My colleague went bonkers and left the shop and Pret on the spot after all the other stuff the Manager was doing to us.
- Working higher positions but not being paid for it: Most staff I spoke to this happened to them as well as to myself. When I was trained to be a Team Leader the Manager promised me a certain pay once I “graduate” to be a Team Leader. The training weeks I think was 6 weeks if I remember correct. My Manager did several things to cheat me out of my pay-rise. She kept postponing the graduation date under excuses. So, I worked as a Team Leader but didn’t receive the Team Leader pay. And then weeks later she also said that she couldn’t give me the promised pay she herself offered me (the highest rate for a Team Leader). Then when I confronted her after she kept postponing graduation and pay-rise day, I said to her that I would quit on the spot if she doesn’t graduate me and give me the promised pay she offered! I was graduated and got the promised pay rise on that day I threatened with leaving! And I meant it! I was so fed up with her lies and tricks she also did with colleagues!
Then she and her boss, the Operations Manager (OPs) did another trick and removed the Assistant Manager from the shop, so I was doing double work and picked up where the Assistant Manager left off! That shop saved a huge chunk on monthly Assistant Manager wages and that work load then was dumped on me! Again, I was naive still and wouldn’t accept this exploitation today anymore.
A common trick Managers do is to postpone training. The coffee maker who is in training to be a Barista with higher pay is being told that no spot is free for the training. Training only happens every few months, not every week. Because once people have completed the 2 or 3 days of training in Head Office, the shop has to give a first small pay-rise. Then a full pay-rise comes when the coffee maker “graduates” as a Barista weeks later. But training and later graduation day is being delayed to save money on the pay-rises.
Also, shops have to PAY for the training! So, they do any- and everything to delay training. Thus, many people work in higher roles for MANY months without a pay rise!
All the while top leadership and executives squander money on parties and flying to Dubai, Vegas, Paris … for leadership “meetings”.
- Last week’s pay not paid: When you leave Pret you MUST check that your LAST week is paid to you. When people start at Pret their first week of pay is paid after the second week. So after the first week, there will be NO pay. The first week’s pay is paid after the end of the second week. Pret did NOT pay me for my last week. I only realized after a year when I looked at the numbers more closely!!! The reason I didn’t notice at the time when I left and received my pay was because Pret fired me under pretense of other issues, and had to pay me 9 weeks of pay as I worked just short under 10 years in Pret.
So, the chunk of money Pret paid made it confusing for me to notice that my last week wasn’t paid. I also was NOT sent my last payslip. I completely missed that theft because I flew back and forth between London and Germany where my dad just came out of a coma and was still in intensive care.
Pret fired me days after my dad came out of a coma! Hence, I missed checking properly if my last week was paid. And of course it wasn’t! They think they got away with stuff and keep getting away. No they don’t and they won’t. Pret may have cheated me out of money and so many others, too. But this is your legacy Pret A Manger who always puts up the ethical and caring facade, while in reality Pret are greedy crooks, corrupt, thieves and liars!
If I missed anything in how they cheat low-wage staff out of money, just drop me a line via the contact form.
The following Unions are best for food workers:
BFAWU know the MOST about Pret from my blog and have already helped individual Pret people.
IWGB specialize in helping foreign workers and even have a former Pret staff working there.
Pret staff need to get active and stand up for your right, respect, dignity and better work conditions because the exploitation will just get worse!
I worked at Pret A Manger and survived systemic workplace bullying during bereavement that involved HR, the top leadership, HQ and even the now “retired” former CEO Clive Schlee. I declined 4 settlement offers if I am silent about my ordeal. But I rather speak out to help others. For an overview of important blog entries of my experience with Pret, please visit “My Ordeal with Pret A Manger”. The little arrow to the right next to each heading will lead directly to the post.
An incomplete list on what other Pret staff say about Pret’s bullying environment: Caught in the Act Bullying at Pret.
I tell my story for the first time verbally in below audio player interview on a podcast by The Adam Paradox, and wrote two articles in the Scottish Left Review.
Thank you for reading/listening.
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