BHA calls for new law on tipping and service charges

Ufi Ibrahim CEO of the British Hospitality Association

Ufi Ibrahim
CEO of the British Hospitality Association

Restaurants and hotels should be legally required to tell customers how service charges and tips are distributed among staff. That’s the message from the British Hospitality Association (BHA) in a new initiative proposed to Business Secretary Sajid Javid.

The BHA – which represents 40,000 hospitality establishments in the UK – wants the Government to introduce legislation to make businesses reveal exactly what happens to the ‘extras’ customers pay at the end of a meal.

“For us it’s all about transparency,” said Ufi Ibrahim, Chief Executive of the

BHA, which has outlined the proposal in a letter to the Business Secretary.

“Although restaurants are legally entitled to deduct administration costs from service charges, for example, we think it’s important the customers understands exactly how much is deducted and why.

“Customers should be able to reward good service and know where their money ends up and how much of it goes to the staff.”

Many restaurants and hotels have signed up to the British Hospitality Association’s voluntary code of transparency on tips and service charges.

But now the BHA wants to make it a legal requirement.

The BHA wants to end confusion among customers about who is entitled to service charges.

Since 2009 it has been illegal for restaurant owners to use tips and service charges to bring wages up to the national minimum wage.

Service charge usually goes into a ‘Tronc’ – which is then distributed among waiters, front of house and the kitchen team – allocated according to arrangements agreed by the staff.

The letter to the Secretary of State, Sajid Javid says:

“…we propose that the following disclosures be made compulsory: Restaurants should disclose to customers how they deal with discretionary service charge and non-cash tips, at least by a written notice available for inspection at each restaurant and on the restaurant’s website, if there is one. 

The disclosure should cover:

  1. Whether an amount is deducted for handling costs (and how much);
  2. How the remainder is shared between the restaurant and the employees;
  3. The broad process for distribution, for example, that they are shared between the employees in the restaurant through a system controlled by a representative of the employees.”

Ms Ibrahim added: “Restaurants are legally entitled to deduct credit card and administration costs from service charges. But we think it’s important that customers understand how much is deducted and why.

“Customers should be able to reward good service and know where their money ends up and how much of it goes to the staff.”

Following concerns raised in the media, the government launched an inquiry into the issue.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has called for evidence into how cash and non-cash tips, gratuities, cover and service charges are collected and how much employers deduct from their employees.

The inquiry does not only cover the hospitality sector but goes much wider, extending to other industries where tipping is prevalent, such as hairdressing and casinos. The deadline for responses is 10 November.

read more: Response to Government Action on Tipping Practices by the BHABHA calls for new law on tipping and service chargesTipping transparency blog; also find out more about the BHA Code of Practice for Tips and Service Charges here.

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