Unite has slammed the government for reportedly scrapping plans to introduce fair tips legislation, first promised by then-business secretary Sajid Javid nearly six years ago.
After Javid’s consultation in 2016, hospitality workers then waited more than two years before prime minister Boris Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May announced in 2018 that she would introduce legislation to bar restaurants from taking staff tips.
She then failed to take any action in her time in office. In 2019, a pledge to ban restaurants from taking staff tips was included in the Queen’s Speech, but again nothing was done.
After years of delays, legislation to ensure hospitality and other workers receive 100 per cent of their tips was back on the table in September last year, when business minister Paul Scully announced that the government would finally bring in the long-promised tips laws.
“Unfortunately, some companies choose to withhold cash from hardworking staff who have been tipped by customers as a reward for good service,” Scully said last September.
“Our plans will make this illegal and ensure tips will go to those who worked for it,” he added. “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.”
Speculation mounted that tips legislation would be included in the Queen’s Speech next week, but the Financial Times (FT) reported that these plans have been shelved, with one unnamed government minister telling the FT that tips legislation was being “dropped for the foreseeable future”.
It was also thought that tips legislation may have been included in a long-promised Employment Bill to strengthen workers’ rights, but the Bill has likewise been kicked into the long grass and will reportedly not appear in the Queen’s Speech.
The Employment Bill was first promised by prime minister Boris Johnson in the Tory party manifesto during the last general election in 2019 as a way to improve workers’ rights post-Brexit.
The news that the Employment Bill, including promised tips legislation, has vanished into thin air was met by fury from unions.
Commenting, TUC general secretary France O’Grady said, “If the Government fails to bring forward an Employment Bill at next week’s Queen’s Speech it will betray some of the lowest-paid and most vulnerable workers in Britain.
“Fair tips are just the thin end of the wedge,” she added. “Without new legislation workers will be denied a host of other vital rights and protections.
“These include fair notice for shifts and payment for cancelled shifts, flexible working rights, and protection from pregnancy discrimination.”
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said the latest news about the uncertain fate of tips legislation and the wider Employment Bill shows that Unite must press on with its strategy of winning in the workplace.
“Every year this government promises action to ensure fair tipping – and then does precisely nothing to deliver on that promise,” she said. “That is why workers are turning to Unite because we are winning for them, just as we did at Pizza Express.
“A hospitality worker can lose thousands of pounds a year from their earnings when the employer refuses to hand over their tips. In a sector notorious for long hours and low wages, tipping misappropriation is another abuse. If the government won’t fix it, Unite will.”
Last month, Unite members working for Pizza Express declared victory for fair tips after an internal Pizza Express committee scrapped a tips allocation plan that saw low-paid waiting staff lose up to £2000 a year.
The plan, suddenly introduced in May by Pizza Express bosses last year, saw the percentage of card tips that wait staff receive slashed from 70 per cent to 50 per cent, with the other 50 per cent going to back-of-house kitchen staff.
Unite members campaigned heavily against the latest tips injustice from Pizza Express, and thanks to their efforts, in March, an internal Pizza Express committee, established because of pressure from Unite, scrapped the policy.
Now, the committee, which is made up of staff representatives across Pizza Express, have agreed to return to the previous system, where wait staff receive 70 per cent of card tips and kitchen staff receive 30 per cent.
By Hajera Blagg