The pandemic has spurred a shift to contactless payments, however, it has presented some negative consequences for servers and kitchen staff at restaurants at a time when they need all the support they can get.
Many servers and kitchen staff all over the world have been left without employment due to the Covid-19 health crisis. The good news is that some countries are gradually lifting restrictions and are letting restaurants open again, allowing those who have been unemployed to regain their livelihoods. That said, the switch to card-only payments makes it easier for restaurant owners and managers to deduct tips intended for servers and kitchen staff and funnel them into their own pockets.
To protect these vulnerable workers, the UK, where 80 percent of all tipping now happens by card, is introducing new legislation that will ban restaurant owners from taking customer tips and service charge payments from workers. This law, which was actually proposed five years ago, is designed to protect around two million hospitality workers after a number of high-profile stories exposed companies that have essentially been stealing from their own staff.
According to the UK government, research demonstrates how many businesses that add a discretionary service charge to customer’s bills have been shamelessly keeping part of or even all that money instead of distributing it among the waiting and kitchen staff.
The money is often used to fatten managers’ or chefs’ paychecks or to support overall profits.
Labor markets minister Paul Scully says, “Unfortunately, some companies choose to withhold cash from hardworking staff who have been tipped by customers as a reward for good service.
“Our plans will make this illegal and ensure tips will go to those who worked for it. This will provide a boost to workers in pubs, cafes, and restaurants across the country, while reassuring customers their money is going to those who deserve it.”
Restaurants and businesses found breaking the rules will be fined and forced to compensate their workers, but any legal action depends on the workers bringing an employment tribunal case.
While the change is urgently needed and welcomed, according to the Unite union, which has led a long-running campaign for legislation on tips, the five-year delay in implementing the legislation has already cost waiting staff approximately £10,000 ($13,445 USD) in tips.