Former KFC employees have revealed the dire work conditions they faced as teenagers as the fast food giant is hit with a landmark class action.
Two ex staff members, who worked at the company from as young as 14, told Daily Mail Australia they were routinely denied mandatory 10-minute paid breaks during the long shifts that could last up to 12 hours.
Shine Lawyers are representing the pair and thousands of other employees, including one girl who said she took up smoking just to get a break.
The group claim they were denied their entitled 10-minute rest pauses on shifts longer than four hours.
The law firm filed the case on Monday with the support of the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union.
Thousands of KFC workers who claim they were regularly denied 10-minute paid breaks have joined a class action against the fast food giant (stock image)
Worker A* worked at KFC from 14 to 17 years old and claimed she was never given a rest pause, despite often working upwards of 40 hours a week.
‘When I was hired, I was told we were entitled to a 10-minute rest pause if we worked more than four hours but I never got one,’ she said.
‘They tended to cut people from shifts if it was slow. So instead of getting the 10-minute pause, they’d send a worker home to save money.
‘They found workers who they knew, if they stressed and pushed them enough, could do the work of two or three people without a break.
‘What they didn’t take into account, or maybe didn’t care about, was that doing these long shifts, not getting breaks and doing the work of multiple people takes a physical and mental toll, especially on minors.’
Worker A claimed she once worked a shift from open, starting at about 9am, to close, around midnight, at just 15-years-old.
‘I do remember them asking us to work over the hours you’re meant to work in a day and they’d still only give a half-hour lunch break with no pauses,’ she said.
‘When you’re a kid, you want to please the managers. You won’t cause a fuss, even with the rest pauses.
‘If you get told no, you’re not going to turn to an adult and say, “I deserve this”, you say “okay”.’
Daily Mail Australia spoke to two former employees who said they never received paid 10-minute breaks
Worker B* worked at KFC from 14 to 17 years old.
She claimed during that time she was never given a 10-minute rest and was often asked to cut her 30-minute break short to ‘help out’ other team members.
‘I was never told about the 10-minute pauses. The first time I heard about it was during an online training module,’ she said.
Worker B said she was working three short shifts a week when she first started at KFC but claims she quickly felt pressured to take on more hours.
‘After a month or two, I started working nearly every day after school and all weekend,’ she said.
‘The longest shift I had was doing a close one night where we finished at 3am, then I had an open the next day so had to be back at the store at 7am and ended up working through to close again.
‘It was about 17 hours, after finishing at 3am the day before, and I was given a half-hour break.’
Worker B claimed she went on to regularly work extremely late night shifts during the school week.
‘I’d go to school, walk an hour to work, work all night, do a close, get home for a quick sleep then go back to school just to do it all over again,’ she said.
‘No-Doze and Red Bull were a saviour.
‘The managers would lecture us for taking so much caffeine but they wouldn’t let us sit down to take a break.’
One worker said she was only given a half-hour break during a 7-hour shift at just 15-years-old
The long hours and heavy prioritisation of KFC over studying and her health saw Worker B’s school results start to suffer.
The situation reached a peak when she had to sit her Year 10 exams but was too tired to concentrate.
‘It was awful. I did all my exams in a seperate room,’ she said.
‘I did them in the teacher’s room because I was so overwhelmed and exhausted.
‘Then I ended up rushing to finish so I could get to my KFC shift on time.’
Worker A believes the friendship between employees and managers, who often worked at stores for several years before promotion, meant staff felt ‘guilty’ for wanting a break or denying overtime.
‘I definitely think as a kid, I looked at things as, “Oh, if they’re a manager, they know what they’re meant to do and they’ll do the right thing”,’ Worker A said.
‘Now that I reflect on it, the fast food model is so flawed because you have these kids that build up friendships working with other kids in the store.
‘Then they turn 18 and suddenly they’re managing them.
‘KFC, in my opinion, didn’t take steps to minimise that. There was no impartial party, and limited access to HR. It was the same people who grew up in the store, just in a different role.’
When approached by Daily Mail Australia about the workers’ claims, a KFC spokesperson said: ‘KFC Australia takes all obligations under the Fair Work Act and KFC National Enterprise Agreement very seriously, including the obligation to allow employees take the paid rest breaks they are entitled to.
‘We will be responding to the claim made in the Federal Court in due course.’
All current and former KFC employees who were denied 10-minute rest pauses on shifts over four hours have been encouraged to join Shine Lawyer’s class action against the company.
Joint Head of Class Actions Vicky Antzoulatos says the allegations point to a potential complete failure by KFC to protect the welfare of its staff.
Australians who worked at KFC between December 4, 2017 and December 4, 2023, and were denied a paid 10-minute break have been encouraged to join the class action
‘Our claim is likely to allege that vulnerable workers were not provided the rest breaks they were entitled to,’ she said.
‘Many of these workers were just kids facing tough working conditions, who would not have had the confidence or knowledge to speak up and demand the breaks they were owed.’
To be a part of the class action, you must have been a current or former KFC Australia worker between December 4, 2017 and December 4, 2023 and not receive at least one 10-minute paid break which you were entitled to.
To join, visit shine.com.au/kfc.