No one should be working 70-hour weeks

Dissecting the issue of chef workload

There seems to be a cultural shift brewing within the hospitality industry, with many members of the foodservice community aiming to make positive change.


Topics such as mental health, wage theft and unfair working conditions have long plagued the seemingly vibrant and fun workspace. But with the rise of social media, the industry seems to be banding together to promote better and more sustainable work environments.


Mainstream media has helped elevate many of these issues, with a light shone on employee pay of late with some hefty penalties being laid down on venues breaking the law. Some say that the fines are not enough. One industry issue that perhaps has not made as much impact in the papers, is working hours. It’s not uncommon for hospitality personnel to work 70-80 hour work weeks, which is astounding when you consider the physical and mental toll of such a high-paced profession. Even more astounding if someone is not receiving a proper break, or not able to take days off.


Chef Lucy Ridge explains that working 7 days straight is “pretty normal” as a chef, and that her own personal ‘record’ was 28 days.


“With no fat to burn on the roster, it was often down to the already overworked staff to cover open shifts. It wasn’t unusual to pull long stretches of days without a break” Lucy says whilst writing for the Canberra Times.


The unfortunate reality of the modern-day hospitality industry is that many of its perks come with a catch; It’s easy to find work, but that’s mainly because many venues are severely understaffed. It’s a very social working environment, but the hours aren’t social at all. Shift work makes for flexible hours, which can be used against you if a shift needs to be covered.


For a long time, it seems like the progress in addressing these issues has been thwarted by a mentality that things won’t change. But with everything that has happened this year, we should all be aware of how quickly change can happen. We have the power to stop, assess and adapt.


So, if you’re feeling overworked constantly, consider asking questions and making changes for yourself. At the end of the day, your work arrangements should be a fair and reasonable partnership for both parties.


One question you might ask is, what is the maximum amount of hours I should be working in a week? Check out The Fair Work Ombudsman who provides guidance on ordinary work hours.


With wholesale changes being made to combat the impact of COVID-19, surely now is the time to revaluate the hours and working conditions of the hospitality professional. But change won’t happen until everyone is onboard, employees included.


If you’re an owner or manager, it’s important to keep communicating with your staff about their hours. Too often it’s seen as an awkward topic and avoided. It needs to happen regularly (weekly if possible) to ensure people are happy and getting the rest they need to perform at their best.


It’s all about working together to achieve a better workspace for all. If you’re looking to be a part of the change, there are several organisations who are leading the charge, including Hospo Voice who are building a workers union that advocates for the health, safety and rights of hospitality workers. They’ve also just unveiled Fair Plate, which allows employees to review their workplace anonymously and report misconduct. Alternatively, you can review your rights via the Fair Work Ombudsman right here.