A RESTAURANT owner accused of owing staff ‘thousands’ has told this newspaper ‘the situation isn’t acceptable’.

Dave Hackett, owner of the cafe bar and restaurant chain Hackett’s, admitted that he owes some staff ‘a lot of money’.

Staff have been paid late and not in full, and Mr Hackett confirmed that he has been trying to sell the business for the last two years.

Both current and former members of staff are owed wages, and Mr Hackett said that agreements are in place with the majority of those owed money to get them repaid, and that discussions are ongoing with the remaining staff.

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Sixty-year-old Mr Hackett, whose chain has been trading for 13 years, said: “I’ve had problems in the last few years like many other businesses, and the last 12 months in particular have been horrendous.

“We’re not the only place in Witney to have struggled - things are very tough at the moment.

“As an independent it’s even harder, we don’t have the international resources that bigger companies have.

“I’m trying to sell the business to rectify the situation.”

Mr Hackett added that he had never received a complaint from a staff member about the number of hours they were scheduled to work.

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Hackett’s currently employs 20 members of staff, on a mixture of a full and part time basis, alongside agency staff.

A former sous chef at Hackett’s, who wished not to be named, said: “I was made homeless with my daughter and was living in temporary accommodation at a service station.

“I rang Dave to explain my situation and told him I wouldn’t be able to make it in on that particular day and he told me not to bother coming back, even though he knew that would worsen my situation.

“I’d never taken a day off before then and always worked over time.

“I was young and naive, and I was already in a bad situation and didn’t know what my rights were.”

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The former employee said that pay was ‘cash in hand’ and was ‘always late’.

They also claimed they received ‘sexual comments’ from male chefs at Hackett’s, which were never investigated.

The former worker added that their life was ‘very stable and happy now’.

Another former employee, Debbie Blayney, worked in front of house at Burford, and said that she was paid ‘on and off’.

Her husband Leigh Blayney was a chef at the Carterton branch, and Mrs Blayney said not all the couple’s wages were paid every month.

In an attempt to resolve the situation, Mr Blayney subsequently went to the Witney branch to ‘demand his money’.

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They both left the business about four years ago, after working there for four months.

Referring to the payment of employees’ wages, David Harris, managing partner at employment solicitors DPH Legal, said: “A case involving non-payment or not being paid enough would be an unlawful deduction of wages and a claim must be brought within three months of them not being paid.”

Mr Harris added that employees are protected by the Employee Rights Act 1996.

The Carterton branch of Hackett’s was recently closed by bailiffs but Mr Hackett still runs outlets in Wesley Walk, Witney and at Farmoor reservoir.