Covid breaches at Lancaster Services outlets to be 'urgently investigated' after staff allegations
The operators of several food outlets at Lancaster (Forton) Services on the M6 have said they will investigate after staff alleged numerous Covid safety breaches.
One member of staff at Costa Coffee, who has not been named, said staff have been told "for weeks now" that they cannot ask anyone to put a mask on.
They have also been told to turn off the NHS Test & Trace app when at work, it is alleged.
In addition, they say they have had a sign put up in their break room to ignore any Test & Trace notification, and have been told not to isolate if they have been working in close contact with someone who has tested positive.
They are also being "strongly discouraged" from getting tested.
"This has resulted in many working while infected and infecting other staff and probably customers," the staff member said.
"Staff are banned from going to social media to call management out on this policy."
Moto Hospitality Ltd operate the Costa Coffee outlets both north and southbound at Lancaster Services as a franchise.
They also have other partner brands at the motorway services such as Marks & Spencer, Greggs Burger King, WH Smith, KFC, BP, Ecotricity and Tesla.
And similar experiences have been had by staff at Burger King and Greggs.
One anonymous Burger King staff member said managers have tried to alter isolation dates, as well as telling staff not to self-isolate.
They said staff had initially been asked to provide lateral flow tests before every shift, but this hasn’t been enforced.
They said: "The way the staff have been treated throughout the pandemic is absolutely horrific; they don’t seem to care that people from all over the country, mainly lorry drivers, are in and out of the services."
Another employee at Lancaster Services said some staff have ended up not wearing their face masks due to their working conditions.
"It has been over 40 degrees in the units," they said. "There is no air conditioning. People are nearly fainting so masks make it even worse. We get told there is no upper temperature limit, only a lower.
"We are allowed to get a drink if we are too hot but we are so busy you cannot get away to have one."
The employee said members of staff have been arriving at work in their uniforms from houses where people are isolating.
"We are meant to get changed at work," they said. "Our cloakrooms have been closed for months because they are so bad and smell of drains. Getting changed at work is for food safety as well as Covid, but we can’t.
"We struggle to do our very basic job never mind Covid stuff because there are no staff. We have units shut all the time because we have nobody to serve.
"We lose new people as quick as we start them because of the conditions and there’s no one to train them properly.
"It’s too much stress on everyone. People work far too many hours and are making themselves ill to try and keep it open. We are told not to do lots of hours but it’s expected anyway.
"There are pregnant managers working here when we have lots of Covid and they should be at home to be protected."
The employee estimated there are currently around 18 people isolating out of the 150 staff who work at the site.
Greggs staff have also allegedly been told to ignore the Test & Trace app.
Moto have now said they will look into the allegations made.
"Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, Moto’s policies in dealing with the infection have followed, to the letter, the instructions issued by Government and continue to do so," a spokesman said.
"Although the wearing of face masks ceased to be compulsory on 19 July, our colleagues have been mandated to carry on wearing them and we continue to encourage customers to do the same indoors, although we have no legal authority to ask them to do so.
"We are also continuing to use acrylic screens in front of all trading counters and in dining areas. Colleagues are also asked to respect personal space between themselves and customers.
"The law, and our company policy, requires colleagues to self-isolate for 10 days if they test positive for coronavirus or if they are contacted by a member of NHS Test & Trace by phone, text or e-mail, or if our own risk assessment process reveals them to have been in close contact with a confirmed positive case.
"All Moto sites have been informed that these policies apply to all outlets, including Costa Coffee.
"We are monitoring positive cases and self-isolations on a daily basis and are holding regular calls to review any site where cases are high. At Lancaster, 12 colleagues have tested positive for Covid in June and July to date, with another 18 self-isolating. Every team member takes a lateral flow test every day.
"The allegations made against the Costa Coffee outlet at our Lancaster service area are now being urgently investigated by senior management."
The spokesman confirmed that since Greggs and Burger King are franchised operations also run by Moto, the policies outlined in their statement also apply to them, and the allegations made will form part of the investigation.