Kitchens are infamously high stress and often very unconventional workplaces, however, they are still held to the same standards of legal work conduct as everywhere else.
Often, a somewhat unspoken code of etiquette within professional kitchens means that those in the career of food preparation don’t consult HR on the issues they face whilst in that environment. A recent case comes from the kitchen of Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck restaurant in which a 28-year-old pastry chef has launched a £200,000 lawsuit against the company which evidences that such incidents can occur.
The chef is suing the company after reportedly suffering from ‘chronic wrist pain and repetitive strain from being ordered to create thousands of chocolate playing cards and whisky wine gums’ - The Daily Mail reported.
Her lawyers are justifying the claim by stating that, whilst injuries are commonplace in professional kitchens, Anderson was ‘pushed too hard’ to complete the desserts and carry out repetitive tasks by Blumenthal’s staff, and that giving her work which was ‘too fast and arduous’ is negligence on their part.
Anderson stated that the ‘fancy creations’ from the three Michelin Starred Fat Duck required an arduous schedule that was simply unreasonable for one worker. Tasks included placing over 400 sweets a day into small bags using tweezers, ‘racing against time’ to create chocolate playing cards before the chocolate set and administering thousands of micro-adjustments to mushroom logs.
However, the restaurant, which earned its stars due to the creations of its owner, TV chef personality and food scientist Heston Blumenthal, is denying any blame for the injuries and has stated that the work she was required to carry out is ‘commonplace’ in the patisserie industry or fine dining restaurants.
The chef was forced to take time away from work after several months of working at the restaurant due to what was later identified as a torn ligament in her hand, which she claimed was due to the repeated stress of creating the playing cards. The process had to be carried out under time pressure as it had to be completed before the chocolate set in each mould,' her Barrister, Charles Robertshaw, said in court documents.
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"By 23 June 2015, the pain had become significant and on this date, she visited a physiotherapist who advised her that the pain was being caused by her long hours and repetitive work," he continued.
The court also heard that the incident has impacted her career since. "In view of her condition, it's quite difficult for her to find employment," her Solicitor David Poole told the proceedings, adding: "she can't work as a chef at the moment".
Yet the chef isn't the only worker who was motivated to leave her job due to the stress she was under. Recent data from Gartner has suggested that many Brits are also looking to leave their current role – with 23% of employees indicating a low intent to stay with their current employer. This represents a 13% increase from this time last year and ten per cent higher than the current global average (13%).
“Business leaders have a lot on their plates, but the data shows that employee retention is a much bigger challenge than perhaps expected,” said Brian Kropp, Group Vice President of Gartner’s HR practice. “Employers need to think about not just how they are attracting talent, but also how do they keep their best workers.”
“In the past, many companies wrongly assumed that a huge paycheck was what mattered most to workers. Whilst being paid what employees feel is a fair amount for the work they perform is important, organisations must also consider what outside compensation matters most to employees and provide those benefits. Delivering on the whole package can increase how engaged and satisfied employees are in their current roles,” he concluded.
Credit Flickr user – Andrew Kneebone