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Five-year delay in tips legislation cost waiting staff an estimated £10,000 in ‘lost’ tips, Unite says

THE five-year delay in Tory ministers coming forward with tips legislation has cost Britain’s waiting staff an estimated £10,000, Unite said today.

The union welcomed an announcement that the law will be changed so that workers receive 100 per cent of a service charge but argued the government’s lack of urgency had hit the sector’s two million-strong workforce hard.

Ministers initially gave a commitment to table new legislation in 2016, but it was not until today that Labour Markets Minister Paul Scully said that a new statutory code of practice making it illegal for hospitality firms to withhold tips was expected to come into force in the next year.

He claimed that the fresh regulations would “ensure tips will go to those who worked for [them].”

If an employer fails to follow this rule, they could be taken to an employment tribunal, which will have the power to compensate workers and fine offenders.

The intervention comes after several well-known high street chains, including Pizza Express and Cote Brasserie, were accused in 2015 of keeping tips or charging 10 per cent “administrative costs” for processing service-charge payments made by debit or credit card.

A Unite survey of its members at Pizza Express found that workers there had lost an average of £2,000 a year in tips since the government first promised action. 

General secretary Sharon Graham said: “It’s shocking that this group of mainly young workers has had to wait five years for government action to tackle the tips scandal.

“We will continue to challenge abuses in the workplace and Unite will keep fighting to improve the jobs, pay and conditions of the hospitality workforce.”

Unite national officer for hospitality Dave Turnbull welcomed the move but stressed that the new code “must not leave workers open to abuse of unfair distribution systems where tips are being used to subsidise wages in a disproportionate way.”

He said that Unite, the largest union for hospitality workers,  should be closely involved in discussions to develop the new rules.

Philip Richardson of employment law firm Stephensons said the legislation would help “tilt the balance of power in favour of the employee, with the right to request information on their bosses’ tipping record.

“This improved transparency should help to ensure employees get a much fairer deal.”

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