23 Feb 2024

Workers don't have legal rights to tips - employment lawyer

5:59 pm on 23 February 2024
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File photo. Photo: 123RF

Who has legal dibs on the tip jar, whether it's cold hard cash or the electronic kind?

RNZ has recently reported on the rise of a new eftpos machine that asks customers for tips and it has raised questions about who is in control of the money - and who gets it.

Employment lawyer Barbara Buckett told Checkpoint that tips belong to the employer and are counted as business income.

"Unlike other countries, we don't have any legislation that says otherwise. If you're in the States or the UK, there is legislation that ring-fences the allocation of these payments," Buckett said.

She said it was a myth that employees themselves receive the tips but because it goes to the employer, it would be taxed.

Buckett said tips could make a lot of difference for people.

"It's no wonder that it's generating a lot of interest because ... [tips] can add up to something like $100 a week for some people, particularly for doing Friday or Saturday nights.

"It's not a small amount in the scheme of things."

Buckett said that with a rise of electronic tipping, New Zealand law may need to change.

"The UK and the States ... have always had more of a practice and more of an understanding of tipping which is very, very foreign to us in New Zealand.

She said legislation may need to line up with law overseas, such as payments such as tips being ring-fenced. Another way was to have something in the contract.

"I think what's needed here is some clear understanding as to what the nature of those payments are and how they will be allocated."

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