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 the province creates new rules on tipping.
Tips are regulated in six Canadian jurisdictions, but not in Saskatchewan.
Employers are prohibited from withholding or deducting tips and gratuities that their employees make in British Columbia, Ontario, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador and Quebec.
“Tips belong to employees. Without question, tips belong to employees,” said Jennifer Henshaw, who is the vice president of the prairies and the north for Restaurants Canada — an association that represents the Canadian food service industry.
Henshaw said tipping regulations allow for clarity and accountability within the industry.
WATCH| This is why people say Saskatchewan needs to regulate tipping:
The Government of Saskatchewan is revamping its employment standards and some restaurant servers say it’s time for new rules on tipping. Right now, restaurant owners in this province don’t have to hand over tips to the people who earn them.
Laura Civica, who lives in Saskatoon, worked as a server and bartender in the restaurant industry for more than a decade. They said they consistently experienced unfair tipping rules.
“We had a boss who would take all of the tips from all of the servers and hold on to them for sometimes a couple of months at a time, and then they would redistribute them,” Civica said.
Civica said they would make at least $100 in tips per night. But when they received their tip-out after a few months of work, they would only get around $500 back when the tip money was redistributed — a fraction of what they had actually earned.
They said they never received any communication from the owners of the establishment about how the pooled tips were distributed among the employees, including kitchen and management.
Servers feel powerless to fight system
Civica said servers feel powerless to fight the system, even when it feels like the money they’ve earned is being stolen.
Servers are often paid minimum wage and rely on their tips to get by.
“I think when you’re living below the poverty line, when your paychecks are barely covering your rent and your food, it’s really hard.”
At another serving job, Civica faced other problems related to tipping. They said the restaurant was always short-staffed on Saturday nights, so the manager asked the owners to hire a bus person to clean up tables.
“What happened instead is the owners would come in that night and actually get in the way, and make my job harder and cause me to lose tips,” Civica said.
“Then at the end of the night would expect me to pay them for their time out of 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 give them a tip even if I don’t get one…[It] makes no sense to me considering their wage is already higher than a server who always makes minimum [wage],” they said.
Furthermore, they said 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 on tip management needed
Henshaw said Restaurants Canada supports changes to employment standards in Saskatchewan, as well as the introduction of tipping regulations that would “promote best practices and inter-provincial harmonization.”
“Consistency is important for employers and employees, especially for some of those larger food services businesses 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 regulations on tipping in the province would require changes to the Saskatchewan Employment Act. The Saskatchewan government said the employment standards provision of the act were last substantively reviewed in 2012.
“Since that time, the employment environment has changed. The government is looking to engage stakeholders to identify potential amendments to ensure that the legislation continues to meet the needs of modern workplaces in our growing province,” the province said in an emailed statement.
Civica looks forward to providing their feedback to the province.
“I would love to see servers have more control over their tips, over the money they’re earning,” they said. “I think it’s so great that we can exercise our voices on that.”
People have until the end of October to give their feedback to the Employment Standards Review by letter or email.