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Monday, July 23, 2018

Is the government about to renege on its promises to restaurant staff?

I have been writing about the way that restaurant staff are exploited by big chains through their tipping policies since 2008 with a number taking a cut of any tips added onto the bill and paid with credit cards in particular.

In 2016, the Government announced plans to end unfair tipping practices and ensure additional payments for service are voluntary to the consumer, and received by workers in full. These included updating the current voluntary code of practice, increasing transparency for consumers to make it clearer that tips are discretionary, and preventing or limiting any employer deduction from tips, except for those required under tax law.

However, as I wrote only a few months ago, the promised action was still pending. Now the Independent, who started the original fair tipping campaign, reports that Ministers have been accused of breaking their promises to these low-paid workers amid claims they have quietly dropped plans to ensure restaurant and bar staff are not being exploited.

They say that despite Tory ministers having pledged to take action to protect staff, a response to a freedom of information request has revealed the business department does not appear to have even started work on a response, prompting claims it has ditched the plans. Apparently, they are still considering options:

The latest row comes after staff at restaurant chain TGI Fridays staged a series of walkouts over what they said was the company’s unfair tips policy.

Waiting staff at the American chain were told that 40 per cent of the tips they receive via credit or debit cards would be taken from them and given to kitchen staff, instead of the chain giving the latter a pay rise.

The Unite trade union, which represents bar and restaurant workers, said this would cost some waiting staff £250 a month and organised protests outside 30 of the chain’s restaurants.

The paper says that despite many companies having responded to public pressure to change their policies, some continue to keep a cut of staff tips for themselves. Others, including Italian chain Strada, take a proportion of tips paid on a card as a “handling charge”.

They add that some firms, including Jamie Oliver’s Italian chain, have also been found to charge waiting staff a proportion of the bills paid by the people they serve, which is then distributed to other staff.

Nothing better illustrates the priorities of this government than their failure to act to protect these low paid workers.
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