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What to do if management don’t share out tips 😒

If management are keeping the tips you get, they’re breaking the law.

This article explains:

  • If a tip is given to you personally, it’s yours. That’s the law
  • If tips are collected communally, management can decide what to do with them
  • How to persuade the management to share tips with staff
  • If they refuse, how to set up a petition or make a formal complaint
  • How you can help to change the law so that tips have to be shared with the staff

1) If you’re given a cash tip, it’s yours

The law here is pretty straightforward: if you get given a cash tip, it’s yours.

If a manager tries to collect tips that are given to you, they’re breaking the law. Look at steps 7 – 10 below.

You do have to pay tax on your tips though. More information is here.

2) If tips are collected communally, management is allowed to decide what to do with them

But if tips or the service charge is collected communally, they’re legally the property of the management.

So if the tips go into a communal jar or are collected on a debit or credit card, for example, the management has the right to decide where they go.

3) Tips should be shared out with a tronc

Restaurants and bars should really share out tips.

The government has a ‘code of best practice’ which advises that restaurants share out tips. You can find out more here.

In the short-term, the best way to get the management to share out tips is with a tronc (tip distribution system) where:

  1. the tips are pooled together
  2. …then distributed to staff…
  3. …and the management doesn’t get involved with how they’re distributed. It’s done by an employee independently of the managers.

4) How to check whether the place where you work has promised to share out tips

In the UK, 26,000 pubs, clubs, restaurants and cafés in the UK are members of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR).

For example, these places are members:

JD Wetherspoon, Spirit, Casual Dining Group, Carluccio’s, All Bar One, Slug & Lettuce, TGI Fridays, Wahaca, Wagamama, Harvester.

In September 2017 the ALMR set out rules for how tips should be organised. They said tips should be organised through troncs which are independent of management, transparent, and fair. They also said that if there is a problem you should be able to dispute it.

So when you talk to your manager you can mention the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers. They might already have signed up these rules. More info here.

To find out whether the place where you work is a member, visit www.almr.org.uk or call them on 0208 579 2080.

If the place where you work is a member of the ALMR then they should do this already. If they don’t, when you talk to them, mention the ALMR.

You might be able to ask the manager about this by yourself but it’s often not a very good idea. If you do this by yourself, it’s easier for a manager to ignore you or give you an excuse and then do nothing.

It’s often better to start by talking to a coworker. Explain that you are thinking of asking the manager to move to a tronc system where they share out the tips.

See if you can find others who are happy to go with you to talk to the manager.

5) When you have found others, talk to them together

How many people you need to go with you to talk to the manager depends on how much power you feel you have to negotiate with your manager.

For example, if you work in a small restaurant with five staff and the manager needs you all to stay, then if the five of you talk to the manager together, you have a lot of negotiating power.

If you are one of thirty staff in one branch of a large chain where people come and go all the time, then you have less negotiating power.

Together, decide how many people you need in order to persuade the management to set up a tronc.

6) Decide which of your group will be the troncmaster

Before you go and ask the manager about setting up a tronc, it’s a good idea to pick one of the group to operate the tronc. That way, when you ask the manager to start one, you can show it won’t be any extra work for them.

For more about troncs should work, the government guidance is here and guidance on how troncs should work is available at the bottom of the page here.

7) Agree a time then all go and talk to the manager together

You’re all set. Agree a time to talk to the manager about this, then go together.

8) Option #1: Set up a petition on Organise

If your manager refuses, one option is to set up a petition on the Organise Platform for the place where you work to set up a tronc.

Your manager may prefer to set up a tronc than have the petition go public.

9) Option #2: Put in a grievance

Another option is to put in a formal grievance (complaint).

If you want to do this, the first thing to do is to check your contract to see what it says about your company’s grievance procedure.

If the place where you work doesn’t have one, then it should follow the ACAS grievance procedure.

Before you do this, it’s a good idea to get advice. One option is to get advice from a legal professional but that can be expensive. Another option is to call up ACAS and get advice from them (0300 123 1100 – Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm).

A third option is to get advice from a union, such as Unite. You have a legal right to be represented by a union if you are making a complaint, and it can be important to have someone with you who knows your rights and the law and has experience of doing it before.

For more information, contact Dave Turnbull, Regional Officer with the Caterers & Hotel Workers’ Branch of Unite the union on dave.turnbull@unitetheunion.org. You can find out more here.

10) How to campaign to change the law so that tips have to be shared with the staff

In the long-term, the best way to get the management to share out tips is by changing the law so they have to.

Dave Turnbull from Unite has written about this on our ‘Ask’ forum. He writes:

We’re campaigning to change the law so that restaurants have to share tips with staff, no matter how they’re given.

If you want to get involved, go here or email dave.turnbull@unitetheunion.org

You can read the whole post here.

Campaigning to change the law might sound like it will take a very long time. And it might. But campaigns like this have been successful in the past.

A few years ago, Dave and five others sat down see if they could stop restaurants using tips to top up the minimum wage.

Their Union campaigned, won a change in the law, and now it’s illegal. He’s written about that here

In May 2015, the Union decided to campaign to get restaurants to give non-cash tips and service charges to staff.

Thanks to their campaign, many big restaurant chains have started doing it. He’s written the whole story here.

If you want to get involved in Unite’s campaign to make it illegal , go here or email dave.turnbull@unitetheunion.org.

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Have you asked the management where you work about sharing tips? What happened? Did you learn anything from it which you can share? Join the discussion in the ‘Ask‘ forum, here.

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