Right to Waiter Tips When the Till is Down?

Q.My son works in a pub restaurant and last night the till was down by £16 and so the manager took their tips to put the till right. Is this lawful? I would have thought that this was stealing from the employees and that she had no right to take their tips without their consent. Surely she should have completed a form for her head office to report the till loss and that the tips should have been shared out fairly. Can you tell me what he can do about this. I look forward to your thoughts on this. P.S. There is no union that can take this up for him.

Mrs M D, 9 September 2008


A.Back in July 2008, and as the result of a recent campaign run by the trade union Unite in conjunction with the Daily Mirror called the ‘Fair Tips Charter’, the government has announced that it will take action to close the legal loophole which allows companies to use Tips and Service Charges to top up salaries to the minimum wage. Because of this, it should also see the eradication of a number of bad practices which are routinely applied by employers in pubs, restaurants and hotels.

Many unforeseen events can and do occur regularly in the catering and hospitality trade. Glasses and plates can be broken and some unscrupulous customers can sometimes walk out without paying the bill. Additionally, for one reason or another, the money in the till might not balance at the end of the night. The problem here is that many employers currently have policies in place which mean that waiting staff have to make up any shortfall for these kinds of things occurring by the employer making up the loss by taking it from the employees’ tips. However, under the ‘Fair Tips Charter’, Unite says that such deductions are immoral and should never be allowed to happen.

Other examples Unite cite are where employers are taking a cut on money which has been left as a tip on a credit card or paid as a service charge on a menu. Although, legally the property is the employer’s to dispose of as they see fit, many employers see it as an opportunity to take a cut of the waiting staff tips for themselves and only pass on a proportion to their staff. Unite says that although this is permitted, employers don’t have to do it and that waiting staff should be entitled to all of the money that has been paid as tips. Along similar lines, employers justify these actions by charging waiting staff a fee for processing staff tips. This can be anything from between 8% and 15% of the money received. However, Unite says that there is no justification whatsoever for employers administering a fee.

Under the Fair Tips Charter, Unite recommend the following:

  • That employers pay at least the minimum wage with 100% of tips added on top as a bonus with no hidden charges
  • That employers reach agreement with the staff directly affected as to how tips should be shared out
  • That employers should make no deductions from tips or salaries to cover things such as till shortages, customer walk outs or breakages
  • That the rules for the distribution of tips and service charges should be made available in writing for both staff and customers upon request

Although the government back this campaign, at the time of writing, the charter has yet to be enshrined in law. More information about the Fair Tips Charter can be found at www.fairtips.org and on Unite’s website at www.amicustheunion.org

Last Updated on 25 May 2021

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