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Chalet Staff - Wage confusion

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Hello,

I work for a company who owns a chalet in the French Alps, last year we ran by using internal office staff as chalet staff, however this year we are looking into hiring some staff in / a chalet couple.

After thorough research into this we've discovered that all of the providers around us who hire in seasonal staff pay them below minimum wage, between 90 and 120 GBP a week.... which led us to question is this legal?

How do they get away with paying staff so little? I understand that many of the workers aren't there for the money, they're there for the experiences it provides, but still...

We wondered whether they were hired on a self-employed basis, but this has been disproved as they all seem to be hired as employees of "UK companies" - in which case are they not subject to NMW?

Any insights would be most appreciated!

Thanks Smile
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Good post!
Interesting the seasonal worker and it kinda buys into the western ideal that we should be happy to have a job regardless of anything else.
And how important it is to protect workers rights to prevent abuse.

The younger worker is targeted as they don't know better, they are sold a prolonged holiday with drink and sex with teammates, the reality being closer to slave labour.

It also upsets locals as it takes jobs away and drives down wages, ironic as their parents probably rant about "foreigners" doing the same in merri England.

All going to change soon enough with brexit.
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They pay for their accommodation for the season, which counts towards the wage.

Plenty of older people who "know better" want to do seasons as chalet hosts.
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@KSmith1992, Welcome to snowHeads! snowHead

I've no detailed knowledge of this, but don't a lot of the UK companies provide in-resort accommodation (however low a standard it may be) to their resort employees as part of the employment package, so they factor this in to claim they meet minimum wage requirements?
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Alastair Pink wrote:
@KSmith1992, Welcome to snowHeads! snowHead

I've no detailed knowledge of this, but don't a lot of the UK companies provide in-resort accommodation (however low a standard it may be) to their resort employees as part of the employment package, so they factor this in to claim they meet minimum wage requirements?


I have been looking into this...

https://www.gov.uk/national-minimum-wage-accommodation


Last edited by Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do. on Tue 18-07-17 15:48; edited 1 time in total
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If your maths is so terrible you should probably get an accountant to look into it for you - there are plenty who deal with chalet businesses in France.
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In fairness it suits some, no thinking to do, only part of the thought process is getting to the airport, rest will be the tour operator lifting and laying them and issuing instructions.

I've been looking into this so a rough guide.
Accommodation 5000
Pass 700
Then all the smalls, insurance, equipment, travel etc

On a 5 day week, 8 hour day that seems a fair deal.
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The daily allowable accommodation rate is £6.40 a day. If a chalet host is working 48 hours per week ( EU working tme directive), they should earn £360 before deductions are made. No doubt there may also be deductions made for other things. They may be provided with a lift pass that isn't free, and has to be deducted from salary.
You can actually calculate whether you are being paid correctly here. https://www.gov.uk/am-i-getting-minimum-wage
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@Hells Bells,
That is a good link and pretty easy to work out.
A rough calculation said a typical employee would be on £2.50 an hour and owed £1000 per month!
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@KSmith1992, Staff are on UK contracts, with a supposed UK base, seconded to work overseas. As they are out of sight of UK authorities no-one cares that regulations are not complied with. In France the authorities are unsighted as to what is going on, which is a blatant breach of French employment law, even to the extent of keeping falsified timesheets for staff. Brexit or not, I feel that the French authorities are likely to increasingly look carefully at these operations.
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I'm not sure how close the French are inclined to look though. The revenue the chalet guests bring to the resorts and possible loss of that has to be an issue for them. If not, why haven't they done something before?
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hawkwind wrote:

It also upsets locals as it takes jobs away and drives down wages, ironic as their parents probably rant about "foreigners" doing the same in merri England.




Very Happy Very Happy Very Happy
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hawkwind wrote:
In fairness it suits some, no thinking to do, only part of the thought process is getting to the airport, rest will be the tour operator lifting and laying them and issuing instructions.

I've been looking into this so a rough guide.
Accommodation 5000
Pass 700
Then all the smalls, insurance, equipment, travel etc

On a 5 day week, 8 hour day that seems a fair deal.


There is no way typical chalet staff accommodation costs €5000 per person for the season. They typically share a room for starters!
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@clarky999, In the Basement, smell of Heating oil & with no windows Very Happy Very Happy
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@clarky999, @stanton, quite!

And no way are they paying 700 for a ski pass either. They only get local area passes, which are available at a significant discount in most areas for staff. Or they get them free when they sell a certain number full price.

Equipment - deal tied up with the preferred hire shop to provide older equipment to staff in return for passing guests their way.

Travel by coach.

Working hours more like 50-60 per week.

Of course, it suits plenty to do it, but no way are these benefits adding up to an equivalent to minimum wage.
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
If we work on the consensus that the average working week is 48 hours (probably more but...) and the employee is 25, and they are paid a wage of £120 per week - are we saying that the missing £240 (2/3 of their expected income) is used on food / accommodation / ski passes / equipment etc.

I don't understand how this would cost £240 a week....
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hawkwind wrote:
Good post!
Interesting the seasonal worker and it kinda buys into the western ideal that we should be happy to have a job regardless of anything else.
And how important it is to protect workers rights to prevent abuse.

The younger worker is targeted as they don't know better, they are sold a prolonged holiday with drink and sex with teammates, the reality being closer to slave labour.


As many here know I used to be on cruise ships... basically same deal. Young naive people being sold a 6 month holiday with a little bit of work bolted on. Cheap drinks and casual sex and staff-only parties.

Reality is 6 months of solid (read: 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, for 26 weeks) work with a little bit of holiday bolted on. Although the cheap drinks and casual sex and staff parties bit is still true.

The ones who love it are, as somebody else put it here, the ones who don't try to use their brain or their heart too much. They just turn up for 12 hour shift and pay it lip service. Do what they're meant to, not a cent more not a cent less. Just turn into a machine when on shift and save your energy for your downtime. Pretty much everyone I know who actually tried to do their job proactively, ended up going completely round the bend (myself included).

As a manager (as I was) it's very hard to deal with how the recruiting agencies sell it to the kids. At the end of the day my department had a role to fulfil. But I think I spent as much time trying to fiddle shifts around (having already changed the rota twice) as doing actual work, because people were so upset that they were scheduled to miss their favourite port. It seems to be that the cruise ship recruiters sell people a dream job and then lump it on the dept managers to break the bad news to them once they're already afloat and it's too late to change your mind!

I saw that in the chalet hosts I met too. They were all sold a dream job, then there were 2 types of people... the ones who quickly came to terms with the fact that it wasn't a dream job, there'd be good days and bad days, and they'd put up with the poo-poo to get the good days. And the ones who were bitterly disappointed that it wasn't a dream job after all, tried to swing things around to make it the job they wanted it to be, failed, and binned it quickly. I think that's probably why most of the chalet hosts I met, either managed a month or a season. (It's the same with ship staff - always manage 2-3 weeks or a full contract).
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@KSmith1992, and nor are we.
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Lots of people choose to do multiple seasons as chalet hosts on this type of UK contract. Should really be in my personal interest to see UK chalet companies stopped from doing this but tbh I can't get worked up about it - the people doing it are happy enough and the authorities have got more important fish to fry.
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I am in two minds about all this. These jobs are mostly not "lifetime careers", are they? They are a way for people to spend a short time settling for an overall lifestyle that they enjoy, rather than maximising cash income. In a wider sense, there is something to be said for a world where overall quality of life is valued above cash income and the material consumption it can pay for. Certainly a minimum level of income is necessary to maintain a half decent lifestyle (and sadly far too many people are below that level, despite working hard) but beyond a certain level of income there are probably other ways of optimising quality of life, rather than earning more dosh.

Many people on SHs talk fondly of their "seasons" working - they come across as intelligent, well qualified people who were not lured into slavery by tricksy promises from evil employers.
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Hells Bells wrote:
The daily allowable accommodation rate is £6.40 a day. If a chalet host is working 48 hours per week ( EU working tme directive), they should earn £360 before deductions are made. No doubt there may also be deductions made for other things. They may be provided with a lift pass that isn't free, and has to be deducted from salary.
You can actually calculate whether you are being paid correctly here. https://www.gov.uk/am-i-getting-minimum-wage

48 hours is the maximum, and I suspect official hours are nowhere near that. Probably nearer something like 5 days x 5 hours (say 7:30-10:00 and 18:30-21:00) + 1 x 10 hours (changeover day) = 35.

And in the last few years chalet staff have been getting younger! (And not just because I'm getting older Smile ). There used to be many people taking a year or two post-university before, as they put it, getting a "proper job". Now with the mainstream TOs it seems to be increasingly people taking a gap year between school and uni. Probably not unconnected to 18-20s having a minimum wage of only 5.60 per hour. That gives only £196 per week prior to deductions for accommodation, lift pass, etc - which is probably how TOs can make things just about add up.
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If a school leaver can have £70 in their pocket after paying for their keep, a roof over their head and access to "free" leisure time skiing, they're not doing badly, are they? How many school leavers in the UK could achieve that?
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I guess a lot has changed since my first season nearly 30 years ago (!! Shocked ) but I and most of my fellow workers had a ball.

Mind you, mostly for small companies where the owners/managers realised happy staff helped realise happy clients and also were out to be enjoying themselves as well.

Tips included both my first seasons I came home with more cash and kit than I'd gone out with.
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pam w wrote:
I am in two minds about all this. These jobs are mostly not "lifetime careers", are they? They are a way for people to spend a short time settling for an overall lifestyle that they enjoy, rather than maximising cash income. ...
Many people on SHs talk fondly of their "seasons" working - they come across as intelligent, well qualified people who were not lured into slavery by tricksy promises from evil employers.
Quite.

If tour companies don't pay your servants much and you don't like it, then the best approach would be to take your business somewhere else.

Perhaps it's a middle class problem. In the real world normal people without skill are facing long hours of mindless work for little money. The difference is that for them that's all there is or ever will be. Perhaps doing low skills work in a ski resort will help people understand why getting some skills may not be a bad idea.

Ski resorts probably aren't the best place for either sex or alcohol in my humble opinion, unless perhaps you bring your own.
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Worked for Mark Warner in 2009/10 (doubt it has gone up hugely since then) and my level was paid the princely sum of £55 a week!

This included accommodation, food, lift pass, travel to/from resort. Half price beer in the bar!

You effectively had no expenses.

Whilst it isn't a huge amount of money, it is enough to get by. It was topped up slightly by tips, depending on what role you were in. You don't do a season for the money. Frankly we would all be still doing it if it was well paid!
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Pay as little as possible.

And make staff work as many hours as possible.

There is always someone else desperate to fill the job.

The season is short and you need to maximize coin.
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philwig wrote:


Ski resorts probably aren't the best place for either sex or alcohol in my humble opinion


Where best do you think? (quantity and quality)
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philwig wrote:

Ski resorts probably aren't the best place for either sex or alcohol in my humble opinion, unless perhaps you bring your own.


You must ski in crap resorts.
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I think there is basically a line between paying little (because it is what it is) and taking the wee-wee.

2 seasons ago I stayed in a chalet 3 times in the season (at a fairly dear price), so I got to know the chalet hosts a bit. At the end, I wrote the owner an e-mail because I felt that the line had been crossed.

I think the basis that your staff host, cook and clean the chalet... and in return you cover all their costs and you leave some extra money in their pocket so that they can have some drinks at night or have a lunch on the mountain etc. That's all cool.

But I heard about them having to babysit the owners kids, or provide airport transfers out-of-hours, and other such stuff... never with additional pay. I think that's a bit rubbish. If I sent out on of my staff to do a run to Geneva and back at 2am because I didn't want to pay 300 euros for a private transfer, I'd at least put 30 in his pocket or buy him a bottle of JD or something.

The knock on effect of this kind of behaviour in my experience of chalet hosts, is that if you look after your people, they'll proudly represent your brand. They will, habitually, go a little out of their way to give your customers a better experience; and when your guests are whinging, they'll oppose their arguments and stick up for you. On the other hand... and I think this is true especially with young people not doing it as a career... if you treat them badly they'll show you no loyalty and have no real pride in their work. They'll pay it lip service and do what they're contractually obliged to and nothing further. And when your customers are whinging, they'll likely as not join in.

In my last job, the pay wasn't great but the company really cared about everyone, made an effort to keep you involved, made you feel part of a team and proud to work for the company. So nobody minded the sub-standard pay too much. Of course people whinged, but on the whole, people proudly represented the company all the time. On the cruise ships, they do not give a toss about you. So they have to pay well, to buy your loyalty in cash. So I think if you pay badly and treat people badly, you've got nothing to play on. The only thing that, annoyingly, chalet owners seem to pray on; is the fact that it's so easy to recruit a replacement.
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Quote:

48 hours is the maximum, and I suspect official hours are nowhere near that. Probably nearer something like 5 days x 5 hours (say 7:30-10:00 and 18:30-21:00) + 1 x 10 hours (changeover day) = 35.


I never met a chalet host doing anything like that. I did 50-60 hours per week. Add an hour to the morning shift, 1h30-2h to the evening shift, shopping day, washing/ironing whenever, and changeover day more like 12-18 hours.

I don't really have an objection to the system from the point of view of the workers. I think that the majority of people know what they are signing up for. I did a season in my early 30s and enjoyed it. Although I worked for a smaller company on a much better deal that the big TOs offer, it was still a lot of work for not much money, and money doesn't go far in a big ski resort. When at university I worked 3 summers at a camp in America, where we basically worked ALL the time, except for one evening and one full day off per week. Chalet hosting was part time in comparison. But I absolutely loved it and it was for me a fantastic experience that helped me greatly in many ways when I started my career after university. I've no doubt the same is true for many seasonal ski workers.

I just don't like it being represented as something it's not - the TOs aren't paying minimum wage, whatever they might pretend. And that does make it difficult for locals and other small, non-local companies to compete.
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@Gämsbock, yes, obviously having a small local company I agree with you! They are not paying minimum wage or anything like and it's tougher for those of us who comply with local laws. I think I had my suspicious hat on with regard to the OP and thought they weren't quite as naive as they made out for some reason, which is why I was a bit dismissive because we all know the score really. It is a very good deal in some ways and an utterly crap deal in other ways and it's all about the individual's perspective on that but you're right to say that TOs should not try to make out it is a "legit" deal in terms of UK employment law.
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@Hand Wringer, yeah of course the OP is "fishing" but threads like this are interesting and open good debate as we can kinda see both sides of the argument.
For example a small chalet owner might have little choice but to bend the rules slightly to stay afloat , they are also likely to pay much more for passes and accommodation for staff compared to the big TO.
I dont think too many would find fault with that as long as they treat staff well and offer a few perks.
Nobody being sold anything underhand and a private contract of sorts between staff and owner.

My issue would be with the bigger companies who flaunt regulations and exploit
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I don't know how the chalet companies get away with it....
Labour laws in France are very stringent and I'm sure a complaint to the local "inspecteur du travail' from any chalet employee would see their employer taken to task.
French minimum wage is just under 10 euros p/h- working week is 35 hours with over time due for anything beyond that.
Private accommodation(minimum lockable room) and food(or an allowance for food) should be provided if on a secondment or UK contract.

The big UK camping companies operating in France have been brought into line and have to deal with regular unannounced labour inspections.

Its only a matter of time before things change in the Ski industry especially with Brexit advancing upon us. Hopefully it will benefit the smaller operators and people living in resort.
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@Hand Wringer, no, I didn't think you were Happy. My comment was aimed at what seemed like a general consensus that it's ok for the seasonnaire because they are on a jolly/having a life enriching experience, therefore, it must be ok.
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One of the big TO's used to offer an unpaid position where you worked 2-3days a week(from memory) and got pass/hire and accom for free. An attractive proposition for a few months I'd say!
Maybe in the future we will see 'volunteer' positions advertised for chalet staff.
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@alasdair.graham@hotmail.c, it's how the youth hostels run in the UK. vast majority of YHAs are staffed by complete volunteers.
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pam w wrote:
If a school leaver can have £70 in their pocket after paying for their keep, a roof over their head and access to "free" leisure time skiing, they're not doing badly, are they? How many school leavers in the UK could achieve that?


Substitute any leisure activity of choice in your location, and I'd have thought any that can get a job - and probably living in a nicer shared flat (not room).

I don't want to make it sound like a huge deal because it isn't - at the end of the day a ski season is hardly a hardship!

But, this:

Gämsbock wrote:


I just don't like it being represented as something it's not - the TOs aren't paying minimum wage, whatever they might pretend. And that does make it difficult for locals and other small, non-local companies to compete.
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I'm with Pam w on this, it's not a lifetime career, only a tiny minority of chalet staff have a family to support; you do it for the fun before moving on to other things. The one-size-fits-all minimum wage legislation reduces all employment to a simplistic money-for-time calculation; whereas in reality there are dozens of non-monetary factors which make a job more or less worthwhile to each individual, and harder or easier to fill for the employer.

I did a few TO seasons before moving on to other (in resort) things, and never felt exploited - we were all just happy to be out here living the life. There were basically three ways of covering your expenses, a/ you saved up doing whatever you did for the other 7 months of the year, b/ you topped up the pay by earning tips, and using your initiative to generate some "side income", or c/ Bank of M+D. What it did mean was that the resort staff were here because they were keen skiers, loved the mountains, were prepared to sacrifice financial gain, and to work hard to secure the lifestyle.

What I see happening now as the authorities start to get involved and force pay up is more and more staff being here because they're equally as happy (or unhappy) to make minimum wage in a resort rather than somewhere else, don't give a toss about the skiing, and don't appreciate the non-financial rewards of the lifestyle. I think this negatively impacts the experience of the resort both for the guests and for the seasonal community.

I also know lots of small chalet company owners, and can promise that none of them are getting rich by exploiting their staff. Their margins are tiny and precarious, no one in their right mind runs a chalet business to make money. The eventual outcome of the authorities equating working in a chalet to working in Tesco will be no chalet jobs, not well paid chalet jobs. It's already happening, established couples giving up because they can no longer compete with the big TO self-catered model, Airbnb diy, and retired expat owner-operators with no overheads.

The argument of unfair competition for the locals/nationals is also a bit bogus in my opinion. The wealthier ones do very well renting their spare chalets to brit operators, but wouldn't dream of working hard enough to run them themselves. For the less fortunate nationals there are vastly more jobs in the hotels shops bars and restaurants, eligibility for which non-french speakers are understandably at a disadvantage; why not have a few jobs which fall naturally to those of the same tongue as their clients? The chalet holiday concept is peculiarly British, and has been created by a lot of hard work over the decades by the British ski industry. The alpine nations have been unable to replicate it, so it's a bit rich to advocate chalet companies being forced to price themselves out of business just to level the playing field. Overall the locals are very happy to have foreign TOs bringing to resort a high-spending clientele they find hard to access themselves, it's in no-ones interest to shut them down.

Certainly the Bank of M+D solution is elitist, but like it or not it's the world we live in. The other two approaches are honorable ways for some to realise their experience of a lifetime; why deny that to real mountain lovers for the sake of bluntly applying the lowest common denominator of employment law, and kill the golden goose in the process? snowHead
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Am I the only one seeing @KSmith1992 as a sock troll? Laughing
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Thornyhill wrote:
Am I the only one seeing @KSmith1992 as a sock troll? Laughing


Well perhaps the cover story seems a bit weird but I kinda thought it was probably someone looking for a job trying to work out what leverage they had for better pay rather than outright trolling. Besides it's good to bitch about actual ski related topics.
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