A Bristol-based restaurant chain which came under fire for its controversial tipping policy last year has been ordered to pay hundreds of pounds of “unlawfully” deducted wages to a staff member.
An employment tribunal in London ordered Aqua Italia to pay Mr M Tapley £856.54.
In a declaration following the hearing, Judge Baron said: “The Tribunal declares in accordance with section 24 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 that the complaint by the Claimant under section 23 of such Act that there has been an unlawful deduction from the wages properly payable is well founded and the Tribunal orders the Respondent to pay to the Claimant the sum of £856.54.”
The hearing was heard on March 6, 2019.
In January of last year the business came under heavy criticism after Bristol Live exposed its tipping policy meant that staff were having to “pay to work”.
News that waiters were required to pay back 3 percent of their total table sales to the restaurant bosses after each shift caused a public backlash and was reported nationally.
After seeing the restaurants’ financial documents it was confirmed the restaurant was using the tips to pay their staff’s wages.
The story came as a shock to many in Bristol, particularly those who had visited the popular chain’s city branches, and many vowed to boycott the restaurants.
It also prompted Bristol North West MP Darren Jones to call for a Westminster Hall debate in which to discuss unfair tipping practices in the hospitality sector.
During the Queen’s Speech on Monday the government announced plans to introduce a new law which will force employers to pass on all gratuities in full and to share fairly any pooled tips.
Known as the Employment (Allocation of Tips) Bill, it also introduces a Code of Practice for restaurants, bars and cafes to make the system transparent.
Speaking about the issue Labour MP Mr Jones said: “I first raised unfair tipping practices in early 2018, as part of a national cross-party call for evidence.
“At Aqua Italia restaurants across Bristol, as well as at Turtle Bay, workers were made to pay a percentage of their table orders to restaurants, in case they received tips.
“This sometimes meant workers were forced to go to a cash-point to pay their employer, as they hadn’t made enough in tips.
“Since that time, and as it became clear many catering and waiting staff were raising tipping disputes with employers, I’ve held a Westminster Hall debate on the topic and continued to call for a change in the law.
“It is ridiculous that workers are effectively having to pay to work, yet this was – and still is – technically legal. The current voluntary code of practice just isn’t up to the job.
“Three years on from their consultation, I’m pleased the government has finally caught up and included a bill on unfair tipping in Monday’s Queen’s Speech.
“We need to see urgent change across the industry, and I expect to see the government act on this issue more swiftly than it has in the past.”
Aqua’s flagship Bristol restaurants are located in the city’s Harbourside area and Whiteladies Road in Clifton. The firm also has venues in Bath and Portishead.
Aqua Italia has been contacted for comment.
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