Nursery workers win unpaid wages claim

EXCLUSIVE A NURSERY owner in Essex has been severely criticised by former staff who are owed thousands of pounds in unpaid wages. Stephen Byron is in charge of Bouquet Private Kindergarten, at Great Bromley near Colchester, but has left a string of workers struggling without pay.

EXCLUSIVE

A NURSERY owner in Essex has been severely criticised by former staff who are owed thousands of pounds in unpaid wages.

Stephen Byron is in charge of Bouquet Private Kindergarten, at Great Bromley near Colchester, but has left a string of workers struggling without pay.

Mr Byron took over the nursery, then known as Oak House Farm, in May and enlisted a team of staff to launch his new business - but after two months of hard work some of them had not been paid.


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In July, Bouquet was closed by Ofsted after the registration was withdrawn, although it is now re-registered and continues to trade as Bouquet Private Kindergarten.

Mr Byron also faces claims from his former manager, Alison Linton, for more than £7,000.

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And now three former workers - head of care, Laura Auger, and nursery nurses, Maria Durrell and Melissa Clark, have been successful in their claim for unpaid wages.

The EADT can also reveal that staff brought in to replace the three have also walked out, and they say they have not been paid their wages.

An employment tribunal at Bury St Edmunds has ordered Mr Byron to pay the three more than £7,500.

But speaking yesterday, they said they had all been through a nightmare in the past months.

They said they had only remained at the nursery because Mr Byron kept promising that their wages would be paid.

Miss Clark is owed more than £2,500 for seven full weeks work, she told the tribunal she received just £500 as a “loyalty payment” in that time.

The 23-year-old, from Colchester, said: “He assured me the money would come.”

She added: “When he paid us £500 it really kept us going in the hope that we were going to get what we were owed.

“I loved the job but it has been awful, stressful and upsetting and we had to jump into new jobs without really looking around.

“It is a lot of money to be owed.”

Miss Auger, of Elmstead Market, who is out of pocket by more than £3,000, said: “It has affected us all - I have to pay the rent, other girls have their mortgages and him not paying us makes us in debt.

“He left me running it, I couldn't just refuse to come into work as the parents and children relied on me. I was responsible for training the staff.

“It has all been very distressing and I feel all our hard work was not appreciated, but we will try to continue to get our money.”

Mrs Linton, who owns Les Enfants in Ipswich, was brought in during May on a consultancy basis to manage the nursery and was able to help get the registration from Ofsted.

But yesterday she told the EADT that she had not been paid so she got Ofsted to withdraw the registration and she is now attempting to get the money back.

Mrs Linton, who also runs six out-of-hours clubs, said: “He has made me promises about paying but I've not been paid yet.”

Kathryn Kent, a nursery nurse who walked out last month, claimed she is owed more than £500 after working 40-hour weeks and is also taking her case to employment tribunal.

She said: “I was employed as a nursery nurse. When I heard there could be a problem I confronted him only to be told I only had a 20% chance of getting my money.”

But yesterday, Mr Byron told the EADT he wanted to pay his former workers.

He said: “Of course they will get their money. I am hoping it will be sorted out - if I get the bookings and what-not, all the people that are owed money will be paid.”

He said he needed to get the nursery up and running in order to pay those he owed money to.

The judgement of the employment tribunal ordered Mr Byron to pay more than £7,500 to the three workers for arrears of wages, holiday pay and damages for “failure to give notice”.

In his judgment, sent out on October 27, the chairman, Brian Mitchell, stated: “Having heard from the claimants, it is clear that the respondent failed to pay wages over a considerable period of time while they were working for him.”

james.hore@eadt.co.uk

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