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  1. Agency Working, good or bad? As we now turn our thoughts towards a new horizon in the Industry, chefs are beginning to contact us for advice on Agency working. As a Freelance Chef for more than 30 years I am more than suitable to offer you a comprehensive and balanced view of the Recruitment Industry. Without doubt Agency working has changed substantially over the years, some for the good, some not, but for sure it is now a major employer of chefs in the UK and will be for some time as chefs continue to be transient in their career. You will find that almost every chef has their opinions on Agency working, but most of the negative opinions tend to be from chefs who have not worked within the system to appreciate the many benefits that it can bring. Understanding the way Catering Agencies work is the key to success with them. Discovering the prime objectives of your recruiter and working closely with them can make Agency working a very long term and financially rewarding option. However, you must understand that Agency’s are just like any other employer and if you want high rewards then they will seek equally high standards, as Melika Cheurfi, Managing Director of Adkins and Cheurfi explains… “For us when We are recruiting new chefs the three main things we look for are experience , reliability and good attitude. You can be the best chef in the world but if you are unreliable or have a bad attitude clients will request not to have you back. We do ask for references along with proof of right to work ID and industry certificates, a recent health and hygiene certificate is a must. We like to form great working relationships with our chefs so they feel comfortable coming to us with any qualms or issues they may have”. Working with your agent is vital, remember they are relying on you to do a great job and its easier for them if they know that that they can place you without any issues. Keeping constantly in touch and letting them know your availability also makes them aware of that you are keen and ready for work. Multi-tasking is also important, if you have a range of tasks or have a niche speciality then that too can be hugely advantageous.The most successful relief chefs are the ones who can go anywhere and do anything,do the job and come out with the client happy,no fuss no bother. So, is it all worth it? Chefs can gain huge experience in a very short space of time, most jobs are paid by the hour and weekly, and many (not all ) accept Self Employed chefs. In terms of pay, you will likely need to go through a probationary period before you can get top money, the Agent will want to see how you work and how reliable you are before committing to a better wage, but its easy to pick up more as a relief CDP as you can as a Hotel Head Chef and £600-700 weeks are common. Also now your working rights as a Relief Chef are protected under The Agency Workers Regulations which gives you the same rights as full time employees. You have total freedom. If you don’t want to work, you don’t have to, you can take time off anytime you want and you can pick and choose the employers and areas of works, so pretty much perfect? The downsides? Of course the instability is still the major factor, and often the reason why chefs don’t choose it, and if you’re a Hotel type of chef, seasonal working may see you with periods of little work, but if you’re willing to take the chance or have no family commitments then its ideal. No shows and walk outs are a big no no. If you have an issue always call your agent and allow them the chance to sort the issue out, but for many this is a great way of working to gain experience and make good money in mostly good conditions.Some great perks too,with free live-in for those who wish to venture further. For sure the Recruitment Sector has its faults, but by and large most of the Agencies now are much more supportive of chefs and realise that Clients aren’t always perfect too and understand the difficulties Relief Chefs face. Being a Relief Chef isn’t easy, its not for everyone, there is a great skill to walking into a kitchen and acting as if you’d been there for years, but it can be very rewarding and great fun and well worth thinking about. Hospitality recruitment specialists - North East based - Adkins Cheurfi WWW.ADKINSCHEURFI.CO.UK Adkins & Cheurfi are an established hospitality recruitment agency based in the North East of England. We cover the whole of the North supplying businesses with high calibre hospitality professionals. We...
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  2. If you’ve ever wondered just how someone manages to start a national movement from scratch, then here you are, our entire story, warts and all? We really kicked off in about 2013, just a few chefs who had been saying for many years that we needed a “Union” for chefs as all of the big Unions were simply not interested in us as a profession and that small kitchens in the middle of nowhere just couldn’t get any sort of representation. Many of us then were senior, experienced chefs who knew of the injustices and had grown up in a system of abuse but like most chefs took it as just “part of being a chef”. However, I was different. Over my career, I had worked with many top American Companies whose ethos was one of strong employee value, support, and a sense of team spirit. After being a boss for so long I began to realise that in fact, I was just a small part of a much more important team and that I needed to be a leader. I was ( and still am ) a very lucky and successful chef, but I realised at an early stage that my success was built on the way that my teams had responded to measures that I had put in place to ensure their pay, contracts, support, well being and work-life balance were all as they wanted them to be. When Unichef first became popular as a Facebook page in 2015, we took that ethos and put it as our founding principles. Those 5 Core Principals still stand today and were enshrined in our Constitution when in 2018 Unichef, The National Chefs Union officially became a legal organisation in its own right. I had previously been the sole owner of Unichef but wanted to give something back to the profession and so I gave Unichef to the chefs of Britain so that they could have a true and democratic voice for their profession for all time. Through the years we have crossed many bridges and brought awareness of almost every issue you can imagine to the kitchens of the UK. Chefs now are very aware of issues such as Mental Health, bullying, sexual harassment, substance abuse. homophobia, racism and much more, and throughout it all we have never wavered or changed our stance from those very early days. It’s this constant belief in our community that sets us apart from everyone else, our constant ethos of equality, support and fairness for ALL chefs that makes Unichef so very special and unique. In the beginning, I was told it couldn’t be done, that we couldn’t start a Union without adhering to the present rules that governed Industry. Deep down I knew that we would have to have something new, something completely different. A Union that encompassed employers and well as employees, a Union that cared about the profession more than politics. I had come from the Era of Nouvelle Cuisine. We had no rules, we had no computers or internet, we made changes as we went along. Chefs had completely reinvented the way we cooked and were now forming the future, a future that respected the past but had developed a new belief, and so I did this with Unichef. Unichef is a development of that Nouvelle Cuisine. Unichef doesn’t stick by the rules, we make them! In almost everything that we have done, we have had to seek change in present formats and regulations. Even our very existence needed recognition and change in the way Community Interest Companies we formed. Unichef was the first Community Union EVER in the UK and we needed to pass a “fitness test” set by the Government to get approval. Top Companies such as Barclays, Paypal, Stripe and Perkbox have all changed their systems and Algorithms to incorporate all that we do, and it took almost 3 years of constant letter writing and lobbying for The Food Standards Agency and MIND to accept us as a Professional Body. So today, we stand strong and very proud. We have our own Lawyers, Accountants, Directors and a very loyal and strong team of advisers and professionals to advise and support the work we do, not forgetting our Chef Patrons, Paul Askew, Alan Coxon and Claire Bosi who value and inspire the ethos of Unichef. So there you have it? So much has gone into Unichef, and there is still so much more to do. We will not stop until all chefs are recognised as equals and all chefs are recognised as skilled professionals. We are a 21st Century Union, the first of its kind and the blueprint for Unions in the future. A Union that is owned by its members and a Union that puts THEM first before politics and money. We are unique, we are united, and we are Unichef, The National Chefs Union, Stay safe chefs, always.
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  3. The Good work Plan 2020 A revolution in working practise is about to impact on our industry and change the way employers engage with their workforce is about to happen, starting in April 2020. In 2018 the Government commissioned an independent report by Mathew Taylor on how to modernise and inspire the British workforce and its findings and recommendations have sent shock-waves through the Catering Industry. The principals are to create a British workforce fit for the 21st Century, a workforce that is inspired to do better and to produce more through Employer engagement, improved working conditions and care in the workplace as well as improved regulation and a new Regularly body to police these laws. Each Industry has its own unique issues and the Catering Sector is no different. Chefs have suffered for many years from inequality and discrimination, especially in multi departmental establishments, such as Hotels where, clerical staff, reception and HR are all treated differently in terms of facilities and contracts. This will all soon come to an end. Almost all of Mathew Taylor's recommendations have been accepted by the Government and the departments responsible are busy drafting the necessary legislation which is likely to come on stream bit by bit until the full report is enshrined in Law. These include ... Work Committees The right to have “workers committees” which will apply to businesses of 15 employees or more or 2% of the workforce. The Committee's will be encouraged to engage with their employer in ways never seen before. The committees will work with their employer who MUST engage in discussions and set up regular meetings to discuss all aspects that involve the workforce. Employers will be encouraged to seek ideas and put forward proposals to inspire and reward their workforce as part of the Government’s Good Work Plan. The Employer must encourage and act upon agreed grievances and consultations. Zero Hours. Those on Zero Hour Contracts, have at last been recognised. Whilst Zero hours has been useful to some, to many it is a huge lack of insecurity and the report recognises this. The discrimination of Zero Hours will end. Those on ZH for more than a year must be offered a permanent contract and those working add hock hours will be allowed to ask for a “minimum” working schedule. Zero Hours will come under the new heading of “one sided flexibility” where contracts that favour the Employer will be seen as discriminatory. So too will the abhorrent practice of prematurely ending of agreed shifts. Shifts that are cut in the middle of a working day when business is low, and workers are sent home without notice. This practise will cease, and business’s will be required to Re-work their business model in order to accommodate this. Split Shifts ( one sided flexible working ) Unique to the Hospitality Industry, Split shifts have long been used primarily for the benefit of the Employer. This totally unnecessary and abhorrent practice will also cease in places where the business operates normal straight shift patterns within its Company. Offering split shifts to Chefs and waiters whilst administrative and managerial staff are offered straight shifts will be discriminatory. Designated Policing The Government have also accepted the need for a designated Ombudsman solely to deal with issues arising from this legislation including hotlines for complaints. Conclusion In all, the most radical and positive work-related proposals in a generation. A chance to end the abuse and discrimination seen daily in kitchens every day and an exciting way forward for new chefs coming into the profession.
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