By Dave Turnbull, Unite regional officer
For decades, there has been a quandary about tipping in hotels and restaurants: Who should get them? How much should you leave? This has led to a situation whereby the process is often shrouded in secrecy and tarnished by unfairness.
Last summer the whole issue exploded when Unite exposed a widespread ‘tipping’ admin fee scam by popular restaurant chains, which siphoned off a percentage of tips that should rightfully have gone to staff.
Unite’s campaign hit a chord with the public and there was much positive media coverage in favour of the waiting staff.
This prompted the business secretary Sajid Javid to launch an investigation into tipping, saying: “When a diner leaves a tip, they rightly expect it to go to staff. I’m concerned about recent reports, suggesting some restaurants pocket tips for themselves. That’s just not right.”
Submissions closed on 10 November – more than five months on, hospitality staff are still waiting for an outcome.
So what should ethical employers be doing in the meantime?
First of all, in line with the voluntary Code of Practice agreed by ourselves back in 2009, they should be completely transparent and open about who the tips or service charges is for.
Secondly, there is often a lot of deliberately engineered conflict between kitchen and front of house staff as to who should get the lion’s share of tips. Many employers still resort to using tip allocation as a crude divide and rule tool. In truth it is the staff themselves who should be fully in control of how this money should be distributed.
Thirdly, recognise that tips provide a large proportion of the income that staff receive. Working long hours on minimum wage in London, one of the world’s most expensive cities, is no walk in the park. Staff need a guarantee of fairness from their employer and customers should be able to leave in tip in confidence that it will go to those who most deserve it.
This is Mr Javid’s chance to bring justice to workers and customers alike. Why are we waiting? Have the flush bosses of the hospitality sector been leaning on him?
Unite activists from the hospitality industry are staging a protest today (Thursday (14 April) outside Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. urging the business secretary to stop procrastinating.
We’ve had the starter – now let’s see the main course!