Unite the union, which represents thousands of workers in the hospitality industry, has said news that an MP is bringing forward a private members bill on tips, highlights the government’s failure to introduce long promised legislation.

Conservative MP Dean Russell, who represents Watford, is set to introduce a private members bill which would help to ensure that staff would receive 100 per cent of all tips they receive. The bill, however, is unlikely to become law.

Unite has been campaigning for fair tips legislation since 2009. The Conservative government first promised to introduce such legislation in 2018 and it was included in the 2019 Queen’s Speech but the necessary employment bill has never materialised.

Under the current law, unless tips are given in cash, the waiting staff who receive a tip are not guaranteed to receive all of it. Instead employers can keep a proportion of the tip for themselves or decide how it is distributed, for example to boost the low pay of kitchen staff.

Earlier this month it was revealed by Unite how Pizza Express had used the cover of the lockdown easing to cut the percentage of tips that waiting staff receive.

In order for any legislation to actually ensure that workers’ are guaranteed fair tips, Unite is calling for the scrapping of the Treasury’s E24 legislation on troncs (a fund into which tips and service charges are paid for distribution to the staff). Unite believes that this is being used by many employers to avoid tax and also creates a system where how tips are allocated is not transparent and the intended recipient is denied much of the money.

Unite national officer for hospitality Dave Turnbull said: “This private members bill exposes the government’s failure to introduce the long promised fair tips legislation.

“Waiting staff, the majority of whom are on the minimum wage, keep being promised jam tomorrow by the government but in the meantime they continue to be ripped off by unscrupulous employers.

“Not only must the government finally bring forward fair tips legislation but it must ensure that it is sufficiently robust to prevent it being undermined through loopholes. Top of the list must be action taken against troncs which are used by unscrupulous employers to siphon off tips or used to subsidise the pay of other hospitality staff.

“Unless action is taken, fair tips legislation is introduced and hospitality staff are treated fairly, then there will continue to be a recruitment crisis in the sector.”

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