A BAKERY company has been accused of a catalogue of abuse towards a former Polish employee, placed through a recruitment agency.
The incident is the first time the agency, which specialises in placing Polish staff, has had one of its staff abused, said partner Anna Ellis. She placed a fully qualified and experienced Polish baker and confectioner with the firm between October and December this year.
During that time, its owner is alleged to have forced the recruit to take hot bread out of the oven using his bare hands, work 11 to 14-hour shifts, without eating or going to the toilet, and paid him below the minimum wage. He also allegedly charged him an exorbitant rent on a room, eventually reduced slightly after representations by Employment Choice, according to the agency.
The Polish baker, who did not wish to be identified, told British Baker: “I was often very hungry in the bakery. I worked for two months and got £600. I have nightmares about this.”
Employment Choice, which helped the baker return to Poland, now plans to report the matter to the police. It has photographs of the baker’s hands, which were burned in taking bread out of the oven. He was not allowed to use gloves, as he was told these would contaminate the hot bread.
The agency also has copies of abusive text messages, sent from the owner’s mobile phone, as well as mobile phone videos of verbal abuse taking place, said Ms Ellis. One text message sent to the baker in Poland and forwarded to British Baker, contains foul language. It concludes: “Your country stinks as do your feet. We hope you rot in hell. I will get you one day.”
Ms Ellis said: “The baker flew home to Poland because he could not bear it any longer and he lost a week’s pay. We will take the matter to the police and report the incidents when he returns to the UK to start another job in January.”
The Polish employee was never registered for National Insurance payments or with the Home Office – both legal obligations of employers, which Employment Choice had spelled out to the owner, Ms Ellis said.
“It is disgusting,” she added. “This has never happened to us with an employer before. All our candidate got was a handwritten slip with his wages. He was only paid for eight-hour shifts and was told he would only be paid when he had finished the job. It worked out he was being paid £3 an hour. We calculate the employer made between £500 and £600 by underpaying him.”
The baker felt obliged to stay with his employer as he had taken out a mortgage on his house in Poland and a loan to come over to the UK, she said.