Calls For “Fair Tipping Policy” Post-Covid

Manchester’s Night Time Economy Adviser Sacha Lord has called for an industry-wide fair tipping policy in a move backed by worker’s union, Unite, and the Mayor for Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham.

Mr Lord warns a predicted decrease in gratuities post-Covid will have ‘massive financial consequences’ for the hospitality sector’s employees most of which are already on the minimum or living wage.

According to American nonprofit organisation One Fair Wage, average tips in US hospitality sites have declined following the Covid pandemic, a trend Lord predicts will inevitably follow in the UK.

The report revealed that 83% of hospitality workers had experienced a drop in tips following reopening, with 67% saying that tips have decreased as a result of having to enforce Covid-safety rules, such as social distancing and facemasks.

Lord commented, “Not only has Covid all but killed off cash, but the social distancing measures in place means less interaction between waiting staff and customers. It’s likely we’ll see a serious decline if not the end of tipping because of this.

“Bar and restaurant staff typically earn minimum or less than living wage, and rely on tips to top up their salaries. Tips can mean the difference between walking home after work and getting an Uber, so there’s a clear safety aspect for operators to acknowledge if we do see a decline.”

A long-term campaigner for an industry-wide fair tipping policy, Lord has now called for greater transparency and the introduction of a code of conduct for hospitality operators.

Mr Lord continued, “There’s less transparency as to where tips are going when paying by card. Many operators don’t pass on service charges to staff as a standard procedure, instead using them to top up the bottom line or subsidise Chef salaries.

“As customers, we need to ask ‘do you get to keep this?’ every time we see the words Service Charge on our bills. If it’s not going to those providing the service, we need to question why we’re paying it.”

“Hospitality needs to operate fairly and introduce standards across the board including fair distribution. It’s inevitable tipping will decline at the same rate as the US, and we need to look at ways of raising employee pay, such as price increases, so that tips become bonuses not essential substitutes for low salaries.”

Trade union, Unite, has also backed the call for greater transparency. Unite national officer for hospitality Dave Turnbull said,

“We welcome the warning by Sacha Lord, Night Time Economy Adviser for Greater Manchester, about the decline in tipping as restaurants and pubs reopen in restricted circumstances.

“A survey of hospitality members last summer, who had been redundant during the pandemic, painted a grim picture for the sector’s future – for example, 78 per cent of chefs said they would not recommend the career to school leavers.

“And if you take account of the impact of Brexit on accessing migrant workers, there will inevitably be a skills shortage that can only be addressed by real improvements in pay and conditions.

“The fair distribution of tips would help the looming recruitment crisis. Some years ago, the government pledged that they would bring forward ‘fair tips’ legislation, but this seems to have fallen off the radar due to the pandemic – now, as we enter the post-Covid world, is the time to resurrect this embryonic legislation.”

Sacha Lord is also currently seeking a judicial review to bring forward the reopening of the hospitality sector. The review seeks to allow both indoor and hospitality to reopen at the same time as non-essential retail which opened on April 12.

Earlier this month a judge expedited the case through the High Court despite a government objection and a decision is expected on April 19.