The Saskatchewan government is revamping its employment standards and asking the public for feedback on what needs to change.
Some current and former restaurant servers said it’s time for the province to create new rules around tipping.
Tipping is regulated in six Canadian jurisdictions, but not in Saskatchewan.
Employers are prohibited from withholding or deducting tips and gratuities from their employees in British Columbia, Ontario, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Quebec.
“Tips belong to the employees. Tips certainly belong to the employees,” said Jennifer Henshaw, vice president of Prairies and Northern Restaurants Canada, an association representing the Canadian food service industry.
Henshaw said that tipping regulations allow for clarity and accountability within the industry.
Laura Civica, who lives in Saskatoon, worked as a waitress and bartender in the restaurant industry for more than a decade. They said that she constantly experienced unfair tipping rules.
“We had a boss who would take all the tips from all the servers and save it sometimes for a couple of months at a time, and then redistribute it,” Civica said.
Civica said they would earn at least $100 in tips per night. But when they received their tip after a few months of work, they only made back about $500 when the tip money was redistributed, a fraction of what they had actually earned.
They said they never received any communication from the establishment’s owners about how the pooled tips were distributed among employees, including kitchen and management.
Servers feel powerless to fight the system
Civica said that servers feel powerless to fight the system, even when it seems like they are being robbed of the money they have earned.
Servers are often paid minimum wage and rely on their tips to survive.
“I think when you’re living below the poverty line, when your paychecks barely cover rent and food, it’s really hard.”
In another service job, Civica faced other issues related to tipping. They said the restaurant was always short staffed on Saturday nights so the manager asked the owners to hire a bus attendant to clear the tables.
“Instead, what happened is the owners would come in that night and get in the way, make it difficult for me to work and make me lose tips,” Civica said.
“So at the end of the night, I would expect me to pay them for their time with my tips.”
Reddit user shadow_238 works in the industry. They told CBC that tipping practices in Saskatchewan restaurants must be addressed.
“Sometimes I have new staff in the kitchen who mess up, and I still have to tip them even though I don’t get one…[It] does not make sense to me considering that his salary is already higher than that of a server who always earns minimum [wage],” they said.
Also, they said that if people don’t tip on a bill, the server is responsible for paying the percentage of the tip that goes to the rest of the staff.
Clarity is needed in tip management
Henshaw said Restaurants Canada supports changes to employment standards in Saskatchewan, as well as the introduction of tipping regulations that would “promote best practice and inter-provincial harmonization.”
“Consistency is important for employers and employees, especially for some of the larger food service companies that have locations in multiple provinces. That would also provide an additional level of clarity and accountability for both employers and employees.” Henshaw said.
The implementation of tipping regulations in the province would require changes to the Saskatchewan Employment Law. The Saskatchewan government said the labor standards provision of the law was last substantially revised in 2012.
“Since then, the work environment has changed. The government seeks to engage stakeholders to identify potential amendments to ensure the legislation continues to meet the needs of modern workplaces in our growing province,” the province said in a statement sent by email.
Civica looks forward to providing feedback to the province.
“I would love to see servers have more control over their tips, over the money they make,” they said. “I think it’s great that we can exercise our voices on that.”
People have up to end of october to provide feedback to the Employment Standards Review by letter or email.