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Brutal long hours culture putting chefs at risk

A punishing long hours culture in many professional kitchens is putting the mental and physical health of chefs in London at risk, according to new research by Unite.

Almost half (44%) the chefs surveyed by the union said they worked between 48 and 60 hours each week. Almost four in five (79%) admitted they’ve had an accident or near miss due to fatigue, with 51% suffering from depression. Some 69% reported that their hours impact on their health, whilst 27% said they drink alcohol to see them through their shift.

Unite also discovered that it is now standard practice for employers to include an automatic opt-out of the 48-hour a week rule under the working time regulations in workers’ contracts. “The clause is often hidden, with workers unaware that they have opted-out of this protection,” the union said.

 Unite is calling on the industry to end the “work until you drop” culture. For a start, employers should fully comply with the working time regulations, including the right to 11 hours rest a day and one day off a week, as well as dropping the automatic 48-hour week opt-out clauses in workers’ contracts.

The incoming government must also review health and safety inspections, which have been cut by 86% since 2013. “Without inspections there is no-one asking these questions,” said Unite regional officer, Dave Turnbull.