Employment (Allocation of Tips) Bill - Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 11:29 am on 3 March 2023.

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Photo of Baroness Chapman of Darlington Baroness Chapman of Darlington Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office, Shadow Spokesperson (Business and Trade), Shadow Spokesperson (Treasury) 11:29, 3 March 2023

My Lords, it is a real pleasure to contribute to this debate and to follow very well-informed contributions, based on experience. I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Robathan, for introducing the Bill, to my noble friend Lord Browne—I do not think I have ever heard him make such a positive speech on any topic—and to the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, who made some interesting points. The questions of the noble Lord, Lord Mitchell, on agency staff and credit card charges are obviously very important. I do feel for the Minister: he thinks he is going to be introducing something universally popular and we are all going to say, “Well done”, and he ends up with a bunch of technical questions; but that is us doing our job. The points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, about the culture of tipping were very interesting and not something I had thought about before today. I thank her for that, and we must simply see this as a step in the right direction, not the destination. The points about information for customers, so that they know what is happening to the payments they are making, were very important. The awkwardness for the employee when asked if they will get the tip—referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Bourne—which forces them to decide between being honest and undermining their employer, is a difficult situation, even though we as customers are asking with the very best of intentions. That is something we have all encountered.

The Labour Party has obviously been supportive of this direction of travel for a very long time. There is a great deal of overlap between the position of these Benches and the measures in the Bill. We think that all tips, service charges and gratuities should go to workers in full, and that employers must not charge processing fees. The Bill’s provisions cover agency staff, which is good, and give workers the right to ask for records and recourse, which is vital. I thank the trade union Unite, which has for years been raising and campaigning on this issue. Alongside this, we are committed to bringing in a mechanism for collective grievances at work which would enable employees to bring a grievance against their employer to ACAS, as a collective. We believe that this would help to enforce fair tips more strongly.

It is useful to outline where we are as a party, where that overlaps with the Bill and what to do when we think things are not working correctly. As was indicated in the debate, how we advertise and ensure that all employers are aware of this change in law is very important, as is how it will be enforced and how staff can raise problems in the confidence that doing so will not be detrimental to them. There should be no deductions, including processing charges, apart from statutory taxes. The written policy on how tips are allocated needs to be made clear to staff when they start employment, and employers should ensure that all tips are allocated fairly through a TRONC who is genuinely independent of the business. For larger business, it should be stipulated that the TRONC should not be chosen from senior management personnel and should have the genuine consent of the workforce. Obviously, smaller business would not be subject to that, as it would not be practical. This should be underpinned by a statutory code of practice, be extended to agency workers and enforced by employment tribunals through ACAS. We would also reform and update the HMRC E24 guidance to simplify it, ensure it reflects updated requirements and make it easier to understand.

This is a welcome Bill. It may not deal with absolutely everything on this topic, but when the Government do something sensible, we should acknowledge that—perhaps balloons, a carnival or lighting some candles might also be appropriate. After the week I have had with the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill, it is a pleasure to welcome this, and I look forward to the Minister’s response.