Pret A Manger has said it will pay teenagers on a week’s work experience its starting hourly rate after reports it planned to “pay them in sandwiches”.
It launched a scheme for 500 UK teenagers amid looming staff shortages, with the Guardian reporting the young people would only get free food.
But following online criticism, the sandwich chain said it would pay participants and give them free food.
The firm said it saw “how passionately people feel about the initiative”.
The company launched its Big Experience Week after it said it would struggle to staff its outlets following Brexit because just one in 50 job applicants is British.
Its director of human resources, Andrea Wareham, said UK job seekers did not see it as a desirable place to work.
The Big Experience Week would give participants exposure to aspects of its business, including food production, customer service, “social responsibility” – described as care for the homeless – and financial control, Pret said.
However, following criticism on social media that the placements would be unpaid, the company tweeted a statement saying it would now be paying participants.
Pret CEO Clive Schee said: “Pret’s work experience week is not about making sandwiches for free.
“We set it up so that 16-18-year-olds can shadow our teams and get a flavour of what working at Pret is like.
“We’ve seen how passionately people feel about the initiative, and in response I would like to confirm that we will pay all participants.”
A spokeswoman for the company added that the teenagers were “not there to work themselves” and would instead be shadowing team members.