The surest way to eliminate confusion about tips is to state it clearly in law that money left by customers for waiting staff must go to waiting staff, said the union representing waiting staff, Unite.
The call came as the government produced its long-awaited response to the inquiry into abuses within the hospitality sector, launched in the wake of the relentless campaign by the union and its members to expose the tipping scams used by some high street chains.
Published today (Monday), the report by the business secretary Sajid Javid has concluded that unfair tipping practices must end and that there must be greater transparency for both consumers and employees.
The government will now consult on the implementation of these proposals, including beefing up the current voluntary code of practice to put it on a statutory footing.
Unite hailed the news that the government is to instruct employers that the tips belong to the workers as a `massive, rightful victory’ for working people.
Dave Turnbull, Unite’s officer for the hospitality sector, said: “The is fantastic news. It has taken us eight months to get this report to conclude but at long last it has and come down on the side of the waiting staff. It shows that even the lowest paid and most vulnerable workers can have a powerful voice when they stand united with their union behind them.
“It is also a massive and rightful victory for all those waiting staff who have worked tirelessly to expose sharp practices in the hospitality industry. All they want is what any worker wants – to take home what they have earned, no corners cut.
“But it will need the support of law to make this happen – it is patently obvious that too many employers do not respect the spirit or word of the voluntary code.
“This should be great news for consumers, too, who have been appalled to learn that the tips they left for their waiter or waitress never made it to them. Diners have been a huge support to the workforce – without their help we may not have ever won pay justice.
“The problem has always been that tips paid on a credit card and service charges are deemed the property of the employer. As they own them they can do what they like with them. Until staff are recognised as the lawful owners of their hard earned tips with complete control over how they are shared out, rogue employers will continue to cream off staff tips.
“The minister’s announcement, therefore, should send the message right across the sector that the days of using workers’ tips to top up pay or to be swallowed up elsewhere in a business are over.
“Many decent employers, like Giraffe and Pizza Express have already said that they will do this so we see no need for others in the industry to delay. Hotel chains like Melia, who are refusing to play fairly by their waiting staff, ought to consider today’s announcement a huge wake-up call.
“We say to the industry, do not use this consultation period to tread water on this or throw rocks in the road. Just get on and do the decent thing – be completely transparent about the allocation of tips to different grades of staff and accept that workers should keep their tips.”
Unite has been fighting since 2008 for fair tips for waiting staff. Its Fair Tips campaign brought together workers and customers to highlight the bad tipping policies of big name restaurants such as Zizzi, Jamie’s Italian, Bill’s and Prezzo. After a campaign to expose the problems at Pizza Express, last September the restaurant chain said it would scrap the eight per cent administration fee from tips paid on a card.
Last summer the union, under the weight of the revelations about what is happening across the industry, forced the business minister to announce that he would conduct a review of tipping practices. .
However, restaurants like Jamie’s Italian continue to deduct a percentage of sales from credit card tips, while Prezzo and Strada still deduct an administration fee for handling the tips and Bill's restaurant has been accused of pocketing a large proportion of the service charge automatically added to diners' bills.
The union is currently campaigning to stop hotel chain Melia from using practices which prevent staff from receiving an equitable and fair share of the tips left for them.
Notes to editors:
For more information please contact Pauline Doyle on 07976 832 861.
- Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.