Life can be quite bewildering when you are 16, especially as you struggle to be taken seriously by the adults in your life. On one hand, you feel like an adult, you want money in your pocket, freedom, and certainty in your career choices. On the other hand, you recognise that you are still living in your parents’ house, listening to their tales of ‘how things were in my day’, and the horrifying realisation that you are unable to get a ‘Saturday job’, denying you spending money and experience for your CV.

Then along comes Pret A Manger, who announces that they will be having the ‘Big Experience Week Scheme’ on 27 March 2017. This would mean 500, 16-18 year olds would get “exposure to aspects of our business including food production, customer service, social responsibility”.

Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Well … it would be if Pret wasn’t expecting people to work for sandwiches. Yes really, the ‘interns’ would be paid in free sandwiches.

I suppose it isn’t all that surprising, more and more businesses are expecting people to work harder for a reducing pay. I guess, Pret wasn’t expecting such a social media backlash, as of today, they have decided to pay their work experience interns.

What does this say about Pret A Manger?

It says a great deal unfortunately. It tells me that despite its image of a ‘luxury sandwich eatery’, it cares little for its workers. It has perhaps relied, rather too heavily, on the fact that workers (65% from the EU, 2% from Britain) have been easy to recruit and it doesn’t have to rely on its reputation as an Employer to find employees. With Brexit coming into play, perhaps Pret will need to consider just how much it cares for its Employer Brand.

Another thing to consider, is the leadership of the company. Surely, Marketing, HR, Finance and Operations should have jointly come to the conclusion that this kind of ruse ‘working for your lunch’ would lead to poor employee relations, reduced brand perceptions and difficult operational efficiency (demoralised ‘interns’, working for something to put on the CV?). Perhaps ultimately it didn’t matter that much to them? Maybe they thought that it was only 500 people, and they didn’t factor in what it would look like in any increasingly networked world?

Integrity from big businesses, matter more than ever and consumers are choosing to buy their goods from ethical businesses. Millennials are choosing to work in companies that demonstrate integrity and show remarkable social responsibility. Pret A Manger has let itself down in this area, although today, is perhaps a tentative step in trying to ‘make good’ their mistake.

What do you feel about Pret’s first stance? I must admit, every time I walk past a Pret now, I will be wondering what it’s like to work in an environment where the leadership doesn’t care whether you are paid for the work that you do, or the impact the company’s action has on its employees or customers alike.

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