AFTER years of raising awareness about the prevalence of “tip theft” in BC, Retail Action Network is celebrating a victory for workers across the province. The BC Government on Monday announced legislation to ensure that a worker’s gratuities are protected under the Employment Standards Act.
“Tip theft” has become a common occurrence in BC, and takes place in small businesses as well as corporate franchises. While it is culturally understood that tips would be shared among the kitchen staff and other workers, it is less known that management and employers often take a percentage. Employers across BC have been using what is known as a ‘tip pool’ to give bonuses to their management team, or to add profits to their business, Retail Action Network noted.
“It’s just commonly understood that an employer, or the management, will take your tips. It’s industry standard that a percentage of your tips will just disappear. There is no transparency as to where the tip pool goes, and what the breakdown is,” said Pamela Charron, a server at a restaurant in Victoria. “Tips are a significant source of income, it’s how I pay rent. It’s ludicrous that there were no protections under the Employment Standards Act.” She welcomed the new changes, and believes that this will have a huge effect on the restaurant industry.
“In BC it’s been the wild west in regards to who has control over tips. There were no laws, and so we’ve never had any recourse when an employer steals a worker’s tips,” said Eric Nordal, Retail Action Network Project Coordinator. “We receive calls every week from workers saying that their boss stole their tips. We’re talking about hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars. We just had to tell them that there was nothing we could do.”
While Retail Action Network is celebrating this as a victory, this new legislation does not go far enough. The legislation being introduced still leaves room for abuse by the employer. “Despite our recommendations, the provincial government has announced legislation that may allow an employer to decide if they are entitled to be a part of the tip pool. It’s a grey area that is ripe for misinterpretation and abuse by employers,” said Nordal.