Tipping policy split as Unite union demands tougher line

Chris Losh

Chris Losh

30 November 2015

The controversy over tipping legislation deepened this week, with trade union Unite pushing for a zero tolerance policy on administration charges. This stance puts it at odds with suggestions currently being proposed to MPs by the British Hospitality Association (BHA).

The BHA is urging the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Sajid Javid, to enshrine its current voluntary code into law. If accepted, it would mean that restaurants and hotels would be obliged to tell customers how any service charges and tips are distributed among staff, but would require no major changes to current tipping legislation.

Unite, however, is pushing for a harder-hitting change in the law, which would prevent restaurants from deducting service charges from tips at all.

‘The BHA seems to be clinging to the increasingly outdated notion that deductions for admin purposes are a standard industry practice when it is quite evident that this is no longer the case,’ Dave Turnbull, regional officer at Unite, told Imbibe.

Under pressure from the union and in the press, a number of large restaurant groups, including Ask, Zizzi, Byron, Giraffe, Café Rouge, Bella Italia, Belgo and Pizza Express have all recently stopped the practice of levying an administration charge on tips.

‘Unite's position is that 100% of tips should go to staff with no deductions,’ continued Turnbull. ‘We will also be calling for some form of regulation to ensure that tronc schemes are genuinely independent from employer influence and not simply bodies that are manipulated by management to rubber stamp company-wide policies.’

The BHA, however, claims to have over 200 MPs sympathetic to its suggestion, and the body is hopeful of progress in 2016.

‘Although restaurants are legally entitled to deduct administration costs from service charges, for example, we think it’s important the customers understand exactly how much is deducted and why,’ said the BHA’s chief executive, Ufi Ibrahim.

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