Several chefs have come forward under the condition of anonymity to report that when employed at the Mayfair restaurant, which Roux Jr has headed since 1991, they routinely worked between 62 to 68 hours per week for as low as the equivalent of £5.50 an hour – the UK National Living Wage for anyone over the age of 24 is £7.20 an hour. Many took home as little as £375 before tax for close to a 70-hour working week. The Guardian says it has seen proof of this.
Le Gavroche may now face an investigation from HM Revenues and Customs for underpayment of the minimum wage, which could force them to repay all money owed, as well as being subjected to a hefty fine. The restaurant has admitted some staff had been paid less than the National Living Wage, telling The Guardian that there would be “immediate pay rises for affected workers and reductions in hours for all staff.” Roux Jr plans to “reduce the maximum estimated working hours for all to 50 hours a week,” by March 2017, according to a statement.
While many in the industry will concede that long hours and poor pay can be the norm, especially for those just starting out, some will be shocked that a restaurant of Le Gavroche’s calibre is engaging in such practices. One of the effected chefs told The Guardian: “It is clear exploitation and inexcusable ... Other restaurants pay their staff at least minimum wage, even if it is a struggle for them to do so. If any restaurant can afford to pay their staff the legal minimum, it is Le Gavroche.”
All the chefs the newspaper spoke to also claim they never received a share of the restaurant's service charge, which Le Gavroche refutes.