Tomahawk With A Side Of Alleged Threats

Caragh Bailey
4 min read
Tomahawk Steakhouse from Employment Law Friend

Update: 12/03/2021
This week, Tomahawk Steakhouse has returned the loan it took from its employees in it's entirety, with an additional 20% "as a thank you for supporting the business at this critical time."

The union representing the workers, GMB, called this swift U-turn a "massive win" for the 500 people employed by the restaurant chain.

The restaurant chain Tomahawk has asked its employees to loan the business 10% of their government furlough pay to help them cover their National Insurance and Pension contributions. Employees have alleged that this request for a 'voluntary loan' was accompanied by implicit threats that they could lose their jobs if they did not sign.

This request was made in a zoom call and followed up by a letter, excerpts from which have been published by local and national news outlets. the letter states:
"The company is confident that there are great opportunities for growth and carer (sic) development for those who wish it and show the appropriate aptitude, but we need to get reopened after the end of this lockdown. We want all current employees to remain with the company as it is your enthusiasm and excellent customer service that has helped us to grow to the company we are today and will help us be bigger and better in the future.

"The company has supported you so far with placing you on furlough (where possible) so you still receive around 80% of your wages and in order that we can retain you in the company.

"Now we respectfully ask, in these difficult times, for you to support us by agreeing to pay your own Employer’s NIC/Pension Contributions by way of a voluntary "loan" to the company, whilst we are in lockdown."

The loan agreement specifies that employees would loan the business 10% of their gross pay until "lockdown is eased sufficiently" for the restaurants to begin trading again and would be repaid over no more than 6 instalments.

Changes to the terms of your employment are allowed with your consent, The issue of employment law lies here:

    Were the employees bullied or coerced into signing the agreement?
One anonymous employee told the BBC:
"I logged on to the meeting and they explained that we would have to sign a new contract,

"They said if you don't sign it we will have to see if this job's right for you.

"It made me very angry. Everybody is already worried about money, but then to be taking more off us for the company when the company has just opened a new restaurant in London, surely they must have money behind them rather than just relying on staff to give them a loan."

GMB, who are the union representing the employees, said that staff were told to ‘f**k off somewhere else if you don’t like it’.

If you're being bullied into accepting changes in your employment contract, or your employer is taking unlawful deductions from your wages, get in touch with one of our employment solicitors today.

    Employers are required to pay their employees all of the government's furlough pay
(with deductions such as PAYE tax, National Insurance and pension contributions deducted as normal). Because they are taking the money on loan, this exploits a legal loophole in the terms of the coronavirus job retention scheme.

Neil Derrick, GMB regional secretary:
"This is an outrageous abuse of the furlough scheme and a legal loophole that must be closed.

"It’s never been easier for businesses to access cheap money, yet Tomahawk is bullying its own young, low-paid staff to raise interest free cash.

"This callous behaviour will leave waiters and waitresses, pot-washers and cooks short of cash and force them to take out interest rated loans to cover the shortfall or face losing their jobs."

Howard Eggleston, who founded the company, defended his actions in a statement for the Guardian:
"To be honest, I was trying to keep everyone in a job. The easier option would not have been to do that and I decided that was the absolute wrong thing to do. At the end of the day, I did what I thought was right at the time to keep everyone getting money and not being stuck with nothing."

Has your employer tried to force you into a loan agreement or a change in your contract?

Times can be hard, but this is immoral and in some cases illegal. Get in contact with us and see how we can help.

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This content is provided free of charge for information purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on as such. No responsibility for the accuracy and/or correctness of the information and commentary set out in the article, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed or accepted by any member of our company. For employment law advice please get in contact and speak to your employment law solicitors.
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