Dealing with live-ins who really live out

By Peter Coulson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Employment Salary

Dealing with live-ins who really live out
Employment law is a minefield — as many people who run pubs have found to their cost. One of the problems is that it's always changing to keep in...

Employment law is a minefield — as many people who run pubs have found to their cost. One of the problems is that it's always changing to keep in line with European law, which has employment rights as a priority.

But I received an interesting communication recently which presents a very old problem: that of live-in staff. A reader tells me that for many years he has had live-in staff and has had no problem getting them out when they leave his employment. But now he has bought separate accommodation near to the pub, which he owns, and in which he wants to place his live-in staff and this creates a problem.

He wants to know if it would be possible to write something into their contract to say that their salary includes rent of, say, £100 a week so that if they leave his payroll, for whatever reason, he can charge them a higher rent, or continue to charge them if they stay on. He is worried about losing his own accommodation for several months each time anyone resigns or is sacked.

It is clear he thinks that there might be an additional problem because the accommodation is not in the same premises as the inn which he runs. The answer certainly lies in the contract of employment, but certainly not in the way he suggests.

It's vitally important for all readers to avoid creating a tenancy between yourself and your employees. You must therefore avoid using the expression "rent" in any way, or in suggesting that these persons are paying you directly or indirectly in respect of their accommodation.

Where this happens, you may find that a legal tenancy has been created and as many landlords know to their cost, it is nowadays far more difficult to obtain legal repossession of a domestic tenancy once it has been created and allowed to run for some time.

Accommodation has, however, always been part of the employment law of the licensed and hotel trades. The Wages Councils, which used to control the terms and conditions of the industry, had separate wage scales for staff who lived in and lived out. But more importantly, they also allowed for employers to make a deduction from wages in respect of meals and accommodation.

It is, therefore, best for you to follow this same pattern of working, and write into every contract of employment that is affected that accommodation is provided only as part of the employment and that the worker occupies the room or area merely as a service occupancy, which must be surrendered when for whatever reason the employment ceases.

A useful phrase in this respect is 'board and lodging', which suggests that the employer will provide that which is necessary for the worker to eat and sleep and have somewhere to put his things and spend his time off.

It should be an express condition of the employment contract that the accommodation provided must be given up at the same time as the job ceases. In this reader's case, the fact that the accommodation is not in the licensed premises will not affect the issue, because he owns both sets of premises and should have made the position clear to the employee at the start of the contract.

Everyone should check the wording of contracts or letters of appointment with their own solicitor, to ensure that they allow them to treat ex-employees as trespassers and therefore have them removed.

There are other issues that surround the procedure to be adopted to regain possession of illegally-occupied premises, which will depend on individual circumstances. But if you follow the basic rules then you should not experience difficulty, except in extreme cases.

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