In March, three Sinn Féin senators put forward new legislation for consideration which aims to ensure that workers in the service industry are legally entitled to retain any tips, gratuities or service charges received from customers.

The National Minimum Wage (Protection of Employee Tips) Bill 2017 (the "Bill") proposes to introduce a provision prohibiting an employer from:

  1. withholding tips or other gratuities from an employee;
  2. making a deduction from an employee’s tips or other gratuities; or
  3. causing the employee to return or give his or her tips or other gratuities to the employer.

An amount taken, in this context, is considered to be a debt owing to the employee and is treated as wages owed to that employee. Employees can take a claim to the Workplace Relations Commission ("WRC") seeking an award of redress where an employer has failed to comply with these provisions.

The Bill makes it an offence to contravene the above prohibition without lawful excuse. If an employer is found guilty of an offence, the employer could be liable to a fine of up to €2,500 and/or imprisonment of a term not exceeding 6 months, if the Bill is passed.

There is also a provision in the legislation which places an obligation on employers to display on menus, or in another suitable manner, its policy on the distribution of tips to employees.

The Bill is currently awaiting a second stage debate in the Seanad and will face several more stages before it can become law.