Where do your tips go? A guide to how tipping works in restaurants

Tip jar filled with coins Image copyright Getty Images

New plans were announced by the government today to ban restaurants from keeping any tips from staff.

Most people assume serving staff get the full share of tips - but that's not always the case.

A number of big chains have been criticised in recent years for taking a percentage of tips to cover administrative fees.

Here, we break down what employees are entitled to and where your money goes when you tip.

Do I need to tip?

Tipping is not automatically expected in the UK in the way it is in America, for example.

Employers are expected to pay the National Minimum Wage, but some waiting staff say that's not always enough to live on.

So, it's considered the polite thing to do at the end of a meal in many places.

So where does this money go?

Well, this depends on a few things.

Image copyright Getty Images

A service charge is not the same as a tip

A lot of people think it is.

But actually, that 10-15% extra added to your bill isn't the same as a tip and is generally optional.

In fact, there's no guarantee your waiter will see a penny of that service charge. It's often added to cover things like breakages and people doing a runner.

A few big restaurant chains have been criticised for taking the bulk of the service charge to pay for administrative costs.

Customers can say they won't pay a service charge and leave a cash tip instead. They can also request for the charge to be taken off if they are unhappy with the service.

Tipping on card isn't the same as tipping in cash

With the rise of contactless, adding a little extra while paying on card can seem like the easiest way to tip.

Some places pool these tips and share them out in a system called a "tronc".

The person who shares them out - known as the "troncmaster" - is not usually a member of management.

But some restaurants have been accused of taking tips paid on card, or charging employees a fee for tips paid on card.

In 2015, Pizza Express stopped deducting an 8% administration fee from staff tips paid on card after a public outcry.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Employees who get cash tips still have to pay tax on them

You still have to pay tax on tips

Legally, employees have to tell the taxman exactly how much they make in tips so they pay tax on it.

They should keep a record of how much they make and declare it at the end of the tax year.

What would the new rules change?

Currently, restaurants follow a voluntary code when it comes to tipping.

But they don't have any legal obligation to pass on all tips to workers.

The plans, announced by the Prime Minister Theresa May, would force high street chains to pass all tips to workers.

So that means no more deductions from tips paid on card.

But as this is a Conservative party conference announcement there's no guarantee this law will come in to force.

Labour says the government's proposal copied another of its policies, which the party announced in June.

Jeremy Corbyn had said then that a Labour government would legislate to ensure workers keep 100% of their tips.

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