The owner of a defunct board game cafe in Preston has been given 14 days to pay his staff – or face the bailiffs.Advertisement
Mark Cutter took over the running of Dice ‘n’ Donuts in Butler Street in August 2017 but the venue closed its doors in September last year.
Now a Manchester Employment Tribunal has found Mr Cutter, who describes himself on Twitter as an ‘ethicist, disability rights advocate and social entrepreneur’, owes almost £10,000 to six former employees, leaving some unable to pay their rent.
Mr Cutter, who also ran 75 Church Street and The Apothecary in Lancaster, describes his business on LinkedIn as ‘Working towards a sustainable model of social capitalism’, although he told the tribunal: “I agree that at times my payroll systems have been hectic.”
He said some wages were delayed due to staff timesheets being handed in late, and disputed the amount of holiday pay owed to one employee.
Six employees were owed wages and holiday pay ranging from £905 to £2,826 in some cases dating back to 2017.
Three further claims were dismissed.
Presiding over the tribunal, Judge Ross acknowledged that while the figures seemed like modest sums to the court they were significant to the claimants – most of whom were students.
In one case Mr Cutter had made a deduction from an employee’s wage after an alleged, and as yet unproven, incident at the cafe.
But the judge said: “You can only make a deduction if it is in a contract or agreement with the employee. It is not a moral decision.”
Following the ruling, former Dice n Donuts employees told how they were left penniless fearing if they did not continue to show up for work, they would never see their money.
One man said he was forced to take an overdraft and borrow money from family to pay his rent.
Another claimed he was sixth on the list to be paid – but Mr Cutter only had five cheques in his chequebook.
One was told his wages were delayed due to an identity fraud committed against their employer.
A former employee said: “They aren’t confident asking for their wages and this is a lot of money to them.
“He wants to come across as a philanthropist but he’s really not.”
A further three former employees made claims aganst Mr Cutter but at the tribunal, Mr Cutter successfully made ‘strike out applications’ for their cases to be dismissed.
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One woman did not attend the hearing, and another had already been settled in the Small Claims Court, but the third related to a woman who worked at his Church Street outlet, and was still on the payroll.
She said: “Technically I am still on Mr Cutter’s payroll as the term he used in a message to me to describe the situation is that I am on a “furlough”, but as no leave of absence was ever mentioned to me, I do not view the situation the same way.
“One day I had a job, the next day I did not, with little communication or updates after the promised shifts at ALEX (another of Mr Cutter’s shops) did not occur.
“It is sad to say that I do not consider Mr Cutter to have any care or respect for his employees.
Her claim related to wages accrued since the claim against Mr Cutter was submitted, and fell outside the court’s jurisdiction.
Mr Cutter has promised to pay her the outstanding sum.
Millie Lavelle, Dice n Donut’s former manager, said: “I’m grateful that this situation is finally over, and that the employment judge was fair and straightforward with her rulings.
“It’s unfortunate to be another person who has needed to resort to the courts to compel Mr Cutter to meet his financial obligations, but hopefully those at tribunal today are among the last to do so”
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Speaking after the tribunal, Mr Cutter said: “We were pleased to be able to reach amicable agreements with five of the claimants which were then entered by the court.
“Six other claims were dismissed, and we successfully contested the facts in one case.
“We wish everyone well for the future, and are glad this matter is finally resolved.”