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FactCheck: Has Fine Gael's Regina Doherty ensured waiting staff are legally entitled to 100% of their tips?

The claim was criticised by Sinn Féin who called it “false and misleading”.

factcheck

IN A PIECE of literature issued by the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection wishing constituents a happy new year, Regina Doherty pointed to her achievements since being re-elected to the Dáil in 2016.

One of these claims drew particular ire on social media and from Sinn Féin.

The claim

In a list of bullet points, one read: “I ensured that tips in our hospitality sector are paid to employees and not withheld.”

REGINA TIPS

Following its publication on social media, Sinn Féin’s Maurice Quinlivan issued a statement describing this claim by Doherty as “false and misleading” and called on her to publicly withdraw this claim.

In a retort issued by the Fine Gael press office, Doherty said that she – unlike Sinn Féin – had introduced “practical working reforms which will actually make a difference”.

So, has Doherty ensured tips are paid to employees and not withheld? 

The evidence

First, let’s take a look at the issue of workplace tips and what has been done in the Oireachtas so far. 

Campaigns have been set up against so-called “Scrooge-like” employers in recent times with workers at restaurants claiming tips are denied to them.

These alleged practices at different restaurants can range from employers using tips and gratuities to make up a portion of staff wages, not distributing tips paid by card or not distributing a “service charge” to employees even if it is assumed by the customer it’ll go towards a tip.

The first bill aimed at bringing in legislative protection for workers’ tips is the National Minimum Wage (Protection of Employee Tips) Bill 2017.

Put forward by Sinn Féin senators Paul Gavan, Fintan Warfield and Trevor Ó Clochartaigh, the bill was first initiated on 22 March 2017.

Gavan, in particular, was vocal on the issue said his bill would make it “illegal for an employer to withhold or deduct tips from an employee”. 

0959 Paul Gavan policy Senator Paul Gavan Source: Leah Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

This bill has passed eight of the required 11 stages a bill must go through in the Oireachtas before it can pass into law.

Furthermore, this bill was not supported by the government and has not yet made it through all stages of the Dáil and, therefore, has not been enacted into law. 

In the Dáil last June, Minister Doherty said that “while there are the best of intentions in this bill, there are far too many unintended consequences that would reduce the take-home pay of the people working in this sector”. 

She furthermore said the bill would need a “money message” to get through.

The opposition has accused the government of using the money message – a commitment from government they would provide the funds to see the enactment of a bill – to block non-government bills by withholding a “money message” necessary to allow them to proceed through the legislative process – even when they have been voted for by the Dáil.

‘Significant progress’

With the Sinn Féin proposals unable to make it through the Dáil, the government has sought to advance its own legislation in this area. 

In her statement responding to Sinn Féin earlier in the week, Doherty said that the heads of a bill which would regulate practices around tips and gratuities had been approved by Cabinet. 

After obtaining this green light from fellow ministers, Doherty brought them a revised Scheme of Payment of Wages (Amendment) Bill 2019. 

These laws, according to the minister, would ensure that tips and gratuities given to hospitality workers “cannot be used to ‘make-up’ or satisfy a person’s contractual wages” and would provide “for a requirement on employers to clearly display their policy on how tips, gratuities and service charges are distributed”. 

This was also approved by Cabinet but, as she pointed out in her statement on Wednesday, “the legislation is currently being drafted and will be brought before the Oireachtas for approval when the Dáil returns”. 

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The crucial line there is “brought before the Oireachtas when the Dáil returns”.

This legislation that is aimed at protecting workers’ tips hasn’t gone through the Dáil yet.

2332 CSO figures_90564598 Minister Regina Doherty. Source: Leah Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

It hasn’t come into effect. Workers cannot feel the effect of this bill that isn’t yet law. Currently, there is no law barring employers from these practices. 

Yet, in the piece of literature dated 10 January 2020, Doherty said: “I ensured that tips in our hospitality sector are paid to employees and not withheld.” 

We asked the Fine Gael press office if Doherty would like to clarify this statement. 

A spokesperson for Doherty told TheJournal.ie that it was a “typo” in the campaign literature and that the legislation was a “priority” for the minister that would likely have passed within a few months if the Dáil hadn’t been dissolved. 

“She’s very clearly progressing it,” the spokesperson said. “It’s the only workable solution to the issue. The fact of the matter is that she’s done and is doing something on it.”

The Verdict

The claim was: “[Minister Regina Doherty has] ensured that tips in our hospitality sector are paid to employees and not withheld.”

Given the lack of legislation that has been enacted and the clarification from her spokesperson, we rate this claim FALSE

As per our verdict guide, this means: “The claim is inaccurate”  

TheJournal.ie’s FactCheck is a signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network’s Code of Principles. You can read it here. For information on how FactCheck works, what the verdicts mean, and how you can take part, check out our Reader’s Guide here. You can read about the team of editors and reporters who work on the factchecks here. 

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About the author:

Sean Murray

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