The so-called ‘Tips for Tips Scheme’, which has been implemented in a number of the steakhouse group’s 124 UK restaurants, will see waiters lose hundreds of pounds a month, according to the Unite Union.
A petition calling for Miller & Carter to scrap the policy has been launched and at the time of writing has received more than 7,000 signatures.
Bryan Simpson, lead organiser for Unite Hospitality across Britain and Ireland, said: “With very little notice and consultation with their workforce, Miller & Carter have imposed a new 'Tips for Tips Scheme' which will see waiters lose hundreds of pounds a month in tips.
“Previously, waiters had to 'tip-out' to the kitchen and bar around 20-25% of their tips. Now they have to find 2% of gross sales, which is a huge increase and means that some are already going into tip-debt.”
In a statement provided to Restaurant, a spokesperson for Miller & Carter didn't deny the existence of the Tips for Tips Scheme, but described Unite's claims related to it as being 'inaccurate and potentially defamatory'.
“We are aware that third party organisations have been publicly critical and making inaccurate and potentially defamatory claims around our tipping practices,” the spokesperson said.
“We are more than happy to be transparent about our approach which we believe is democratic, fair and ensures 100% of all tips given by guests are retained by frontline team members.
“Tips received by our team members are in addition to our core pay and benefits package which is always paid at, or above, national minimum wage.”
Restaurants to introduce the new sharing scheme have done so following local votes by staff on how to share out the gratuity.
Each Miller & Carter restaurant team decides how their tip pot is shared through an annual voting process, and there are said to be more than 70 active variations on how the money is distributed across the group’s estate.
However, Unite claims that ballots given to staff in several restaurants offered 'limited options' for how to split tips, with all or most of them linked to a percentage of gross table sales.
“The policy has nothing to do with fairness for staff, it is about the company pitting worker against worker out of greed,” said Simpson.
Miller & Carter's spokesperson responded saying there has been no change to the way tip distribution is decided and suggested that staff issues related to tipping practises is isolated to just a handful of restaurants.
“There has been no change to the approach that has been taken for years in that it is team members who democratically agree each year how tips should be distributed at Miller & Carter, and to suggest otherwise is fundamentally untrue,” the spokesperson said.
“There are currently 124 Miller & Carter venues across the UK. Each team, at each individual site, democratically decides on that team’s own tipping distribution policy. At this time, there are more than 70 variations across the estate as to how tips are distributed. No tipping policy in any venue should ever result in team members having to contribute from their own pocket.
“General managers are not involved in the vote and/or final decisions and do not receive the benefits of tips. Every other member of staff is encouraged to participate in the process of how tips will be allocated amongst the team to ensure fairness for all.
“We are aware that in five out of our 124 restaurants this year the teams have not been able to agree the best tip sharing solution for their restaurant. We are currently trying to help the teams at these sites find a resolution that works for everyone and if we are made aware of any practices that don’t follow what has been agreed by the team, we will investigate further.”
Unite also claims there is a ‘strongly held fear’ among Miller & Carter waiters that they will be brought below the minimum wage by the scheme, but this suggestion is refuted by the group.
“Team Members have not, and will never be, asked to contribute towards tips from their own remuneration and contrary to some claims, team members never have their wages reduced in lieu of the tips they have received and will never be asked to make up any perceived shortfall in tips that are to be distributed to other team members,” said Miller & Carter's spokesperson.
Some restaurants have reportedly capped the nightly payout at between £20 and £40, but Unite added that this can still be more than is earned in tips.
“Some [staff members] have already gotten into debt because they cannot possibly sustain the levels of tips they are expected to collect to subsidise the poor wages of the kitchen and bar team,” said Simpson.
Unite is demanding every Miller & Carter restaurant have its own ‘genuinely democratic Fair Tips Committee’ that’s elected by staff without management interference.
It’s also calling on Mitchells & Butlers CEO Phil Urban to allow a new tips policy to be proposed by the committee and voted on by the workforce without management interference; and to rule out a percentage sales amount for tip-out as an option because ‘tips are not a guaranteed form of income’.