Image Credit: Luke Snell
Current and former student employees of Revolution Bars have, in exclusive interviews to Nouse, revealed a shocking pattern of poor working conditions at the York Parties staple.
Revs have said that the allegations do not fit with company policy, and denies having received word of any employee mistreatment at its York location.
Nouse has obtained documents suggesting that while Revsis expected to make tens of thousands per night on some days, it often requires people to work shifts without breaks. Nouse only began investigating the incident after several allegations of staff mistreatment emerged on YorFess over the summer. Anonymous posters had several allegations, including aforementioned long hours, and wrongful dismissal after difficulties with mental health.
Following in-depth interviews with over ten employees, past and present, Nouse was able to confirm that most, if not all of those employees were asked to work long hours without breaks, with one reporting a shift that lasted 19 hours without stopping. This treatment did not just extend to those working for minimum wage in lower positions. Managers were allegedly frequently asked to work long hours too. One employee told us that they technically volunteered to work extreme shifts due to “short staffing.” Revs staff do not typically have breaks scheduled into their shifts on rotas, so missing breaks is relatively easy, especially during busy hours.
These allegations of long hours are particularly problematic considering that a large proportion of the weekly staff of more than 60 at Revs are students, with commitments to academic work. One interviewee told us that they had been forced to seek repeated extensions after work-ing long hours made them too tired to contemplate essay-writing. The same student badly needed money to pay off rent and cover other living costs.
By far the worst offender at Revs were so-called ‘resets’ on Sunday night, that cleaned and prepared the bar for customers the following week. Resets are typically overnight and well into the morning, with some staff working from 10 o’clock that night until 8am on Monday. While the bulk of reset work was undertaken by workers lower down the bar’s payroll, the efforts during these hours were often directed by a few managerial staff, who a former member of Revs bar staff described as “stressed out and equally exploited.”
Revs have denied that they ask employees to work without breaks in their statement to us. They have also said that company policy guarantees a 20-minute long break for every six-hour shift. This would place it at the bare minimum allowed by UK employment law. Revs also said that it gives breaks of an hour if shifts are longer than six hours. This did not fit with the criticisms made by employees who spoke to us.
It is likely that that information did not reach Revs central office because employees told us they had “little contact beyond general managers,” but also because managerial staff were allegedly abusive and cronyistic. Another employee said that during her time working for Revs, they came to work feeling “physically ill” and often ended the shift “crying” after abuse from superiors.
One employee at Revs mentioned an incident they had experienced first-hand, where a manager gave away a large bottle of champagne for free to friends: an act that was especially egregious because new rules had allegedly stipulated that employees were not allowed anything more than water or soda water from the bar. If it is true, the allegations regarding drink limitations are especially damning considering Nouse has documents showing that Revs was, at the same time, aiming for takings of almost £40 000 in an evening.
Part of the problem highlighted by staff working for a shorter period at the bar was that managerial staff were often too young and inexperienced to back fellow employees when problems arose. One called the environment at Revs a “weird, bitchy lad culture” where upward mobility was hard unless employees became good friends with the supervisory staff. Progression in Revs requires training in cocktails and other bar work, which had to be specifically allowed by managers. This training was extremely difficult for many employees to access, despite their having worked long hours already for Revs.
In response to all our comments, Revs said they would be undergoing a full “investigation”. Their spokesperson added that ‘We unfortunately have not received any grievances through our official channels by previous or current team members that echo any of the points you have raised, however, I would urge anyone with a genuine grievance to get in touch so we can seek to understand the feedback in more detail and take forward any learnings.” On the rest of our allegations, a spokesperson commented: “a large cohort of our teams around the country are students and we value their engagement at every level of our culture and operational style.”
“Breaks are twenty minutes long for every six hour shift, longer shifts have a break of one hour and we have reminded all of the team what the company policy is so there is no ambiguity around entitlement.”
"Our teams are allowed agreed soft drinks while on shift including bottled water plus hot beverages and all team members are entitled to 50% food &drink at anytime.”“Revolution Bars Group adheres to all workplace health, safety and welfare guidelines across all our operations, with the well-being of our team members and our managers always of paramount importance.”
“As well as all the normal channels of raising a concern, we have team meetings, support from a dedicated HR partner, regular Area manager visits and twice-yearly engagement surveys where we gather feedback from our employees.”
“We also include our Grievance procedure and company handbook in everyone’s contracts, so all employees know how to raise a grievance should one arise.”