Wage Theft and the Struggle over the Working Day in Hospitality Work: A Typology of Unpaid Labour Time

Matthew Cole, Mark Stuart, Kate Hardy and David Spencer (2022), Work, Employment and Society

Drawing on Marxist political economy, this article examines wage theft in hospitality work. Through a detailed, qualitative study of workers’ experiences in London hotels, a novel typology is developed that reveals how managers extract additional unpaid labour time through wage theft. The article argues that both the legal definition and existing academic formulations of wage theft fail to encompass the full range of ways that employers extract unpaid labour time. They also overlook the systemic dimension of unpaid labour time under capitalism. The article contributes new insights into the sociological dimensions of exploitation by proposing an alternative conceptualisation of wage theft that incorporates both formal violations of the law and the more subtle, informal means by which the theft of wages is secured.

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