Leading article: An important victory. But there are more battles ahead

Share
Related Topics

For a decade, ever since the Government introduced the minimum wage, the restaurant business in this country has made a mockery of its provisions through the shameless abuse of the tipping system. What restaurants up and down the country have been doing is using the cash that customers leave behind as extras for deserving staff in order make up those same workers' minimum wages. Tips, in other words, have become an excuse not to pay staff a decent wage – a means of a subsiding the £5.52-per-hour (up from £3.60) required under the 1998 Act.

Through its "fair tips, fair pay" campaign, The Independent has sought to expose and outlaw this shabby system of exploitation, which abuses the intentions of diners as well as those who wait on them, many of whom are foreigners and thus unlikely to protest against the trick being perpetrated against them. We unequivocally welcome the Government's decision, therefore, to mark the tenth anniversary of the 1998 Act by ending this deception, and its commitment to push through legislation that will stop tips from counting towards the minimum wage of hospitality trade workers in future.

While greeting the Government's conversion on this point, at the same time we need to be sure that this declaration of intent will be acted on. Legislation ought to be passed as soon as possible when MPs return from the summer recess, so that waiting staff can start to receive their tips as tips, and not as wages, by Christmas. It's important also that the system has teeth. There is no point closing one loophole if employers can find another through which they can either avoid paying the minimum wage altogether, or remunerate themselves for this outlay at their staff's expense.

Regrettably, although the Government has decided to back our first demand, it has shied away from the second point of our campaign, which was for legally-backed transparency on the use of tips. We would like to have seen legislation binding the restaurant trade to displaying their policy on service charges on menus.

The Government is instead talking of a code of practice to be jointly drawn up by with employers. So be it, but if this is the case, the Government must take a tough line with the industry on the terms of the code, and on making certain that it is binding. If need be, ministers should hold up the possibility of legislation on transparency as a reserve option, and act on the threat if there are signs that the new voluntary code is not being adhered to.

Years ago, when introducing the minimum wage was first mooted, voices of doom from the Conservative Party and the business world predicted bankruptcies on a vast scale if this allegedly heinous provision saw the light of day. Nothing of the sort occurred, which needs to be kept in mind as a host of new Cassandras bewail the imminent collapse of the British hospitality industry and the knock-on effects on the tourist trade if restaurants are not left alone to do as they see fit with tips.

If the waiters and waitresses of Britain have a small spring in their step today, that's all to the good. But if workers in the hospitality trade were obvious victims of the weakness in Britain's minimum wage legislation, it is clear that they are not the only ones. It's time the Government took a wider look at other loopholes in the application of this important law.

Finally, this small but significant victory on tipping must not be the end of the story. If justice for the low-paid is to be achieved, we must all remain vigilant to ensure that abuses of tipping do not reoccur. The "fair tips, fair pay" campaign is not over.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Professional Sales Trainee - B2B

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: First things first - for the av...

Recruitment Genius: Compliance Manager

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Compliance Manager is require...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Services Representative

£15500 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This international company deve...

Recruitment Genius: Field Service Engineer - Basingstoke / Reading Area

£16000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This established name in IT Ser...

Day In a Page

Read Next
People relax near Regent's Canal in King's Cross, London  

Nature Studies: Global warming – both the phenomenon and the phrase – is back

Michael McCarthy
 

Daily catch-up: the Greeks can stay in the euro or end ‘austerity’, but not both

John Rentoul
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue