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New Kitemark could be the tipping point in the fight against staff churn, says co-founder

Published:  11 March, 2020

Transparency around tipping and being seen to be a ‘fair’ industry is essential to recruiting and retaining staff ahead of the introduction of the government’s new points-based migration policy, a founding member of a new tipping Kitemark has said.

Dubbed FairTipShare, and backed by the likes of Corbin & King, Wahaca and Barclays, the new Kitemark for tipping in the hospitality industry was officially launched yesterday to establish best practice in bars, restaurants and food outlets across the UK.

It was set up after research highlighted the “growing confusion” among consumers around service charges on bills, and whether this was distributed fairly among staff and not going directly into employers’s pockets,

It’s not just consumers who are confused about tipping, however, says founder member Peter Davies.

Transparency is also vital for hospitality businesses too, as a way of holding onto good staff.

“The overwhelming majority of employers treat customers and staff fairly,” said Davies, who is also client service partner and MD of WMT Troncmaster Services. “But a few bad apples are the ones that gain attention in the media and the press.

“If businesses lose staff, they are finding it increasingly difficult to get good people, and this is only going to get worse as the new migration policy kicks in towards end of the year.

“Part of the problem is that businesses aren’t very good at saying ‘why are you leaving? What did we get wrong?’ Maybe the employee is moving somewhere else because of a career move, or maybe because they don’t like it there. Maybe they don’t think they’re being treated fairly.”

The immigration policy, which is due to kick in at the end of 2020, is being widely tipped to exacerbate the ongoing staffing shortage in UK hospitality.

In London, around 75% of front of house staff come from the EU. However, under the new system, ‘low-skilled’ workers, or anyone earning under £23-25K will find it much harder to obtain a working visa.

As EU workers are increasingly no longer willing, or even able, to come to the UK, the pressure is on to promote hospitality to UK school-leavers as a viable career.

“The industry needs credibility. We’ve seen a huge drop in the number of EU nationals coming to the UK since the referendum. In the current political climate, as an EU national, it’s suddenly looking much better to work in the south of France or Italy – coronavirus notwithstanding – where they don’t have to apply for naturalised status and can be paid in euros rather than sterling.

“Hospitality needs to be endorsed here in the UK by teachers, careers advisers and parents as not just a summer job, but a job that’s challenging and where they can pick up plenty of skills. Tipping is a big part of it. It’s important we’re not thought of as a Dickensian industry full of employers who people rip off,” Davies said.

The new Kitemark certified body was formed by EP Business in Hospitality in partnership with WMT Troncmaster Services, and a number of other found members. 

Momentum came together last year following independent research by EP Business in Hospitality, which revealed a high level of customer “scepticism and confusion” around what happens to the non-cash tips and services charges that are added onto many restaurant and foodservice bills.

The new scheme includes a number of guidelines for employers, such as that service charges be paid to staff in addition to salaries or basic pay, and not as a way to meet the requirements of the minimum wage. 

It also seeks to reassure consumers that tipping is always voluntary, and by providing an industry standard, adding credibility to the sector.