My partner recently was offered a job at a corner store which she was delighted about - and I was too, she's been struggling to find work for months now (art graduate, lack of available art jobs). She started working there four weeks ago and things seemed to be going well for her - nice people, good work and full-time hours.
She was promised by the manager to be paid the living wage, weekly for hours completed. I should have asked more about whether this was actually happening, because in the last few days I have learned she wasn't being paid at all.
In addition, the manager had not given her a contract to sign. All agreements were made verbally. She requested a written contract multiple times - it never appeared.
Once I heard about this, I asked her to insist upon a contract and payment before doing any further work. Once her mother heard about this, she talked to the manager in-person and given what we know, she was told enough lies to end the conversation. This leaves me with the impression that this manager is entirely untrustworthy and will not willingly cooperate.
So, for the question:
- What chance do we have to recover the wages she earned? To us, this is a significant amount.
- Does their verbal agreement form any kind of verbal contract that we can use to do so?
- What course of action is appropriate here? We've never done this before and are way out of our depth.
Thanks to anyone reading this.
After folks in the comments raised some questions, I asked her if payment was ever offered in any form - the manager apparently offered to pay her after the 2nd week by cash-in-hand. She's worked some retail here before and cash payment is quite unusual, so she stated that she'd rather receive a payslip (and written contract) - this is a fairly big franchise so not an unreasonable request. He also claimed that her first week was a trial and not payable, which I don't believe is above-board without prior agreement.
All in all, it looks like he wanted her to work as an employee without legally being an employee - and skim corners off of her wages wherever he could. Being paid under-the-table like this would have also placed the burden of income reporting, tax/NI payment etc onto her. I also doubt he was paying into her workplace pension, which is a legal requirement for employers in the UK.
Thanks to everyone for the outpouring of help and advice. Based on all of the answers we've seen here, we've decided to try settling this out of court - to begin with.
Her mother was the first to approach the manager, with a list of hours and sum payable, which didn't work well. We took a more confrontational stance after that, stating that we intend to speak with his franchise, ACAS and HMRC if necessary. Still no.
After that, we got in touch with the franchise and managed to talk to a guy from top-level management, who lives in the same city and will be visiting the store personally. We're also in touch with the payroll people within the franchise, who have promised to look into this. We hope this will resolve the issue and we won't have to go further.
In case we do, we have some forms of evidence (prominently, multiple SMS from him promising payment 'soon' + some other items) which we can hopefully use in a legal action against the store manager. I doubt it'll be cheap, but she has the support of myself and her family so she won't end up bankrupt via legal fee. Someone in the comments said we can reclaim the fees upon success - great if true.
All of the answers and comments helped us, I'm grateful to you all. I can only choose one answer however, so I'll pick the most popular.