Just tips? That is a Solly salary

Waiters at a leading London kosher restaurant just get tips and no salary, despite the fact that new legislation will soon require all staff to be paid a minimum wage.

Golders Green-based Solly’s restaurant refused to discuss claims that its waiters worked exclusively for tips, claiming that it was a “private matter for the company”.

Asked whether they thought it was ethical not to pay a basic wage before tips, a manager — who refused to give her name — did not want to comment.

She also refused to say if the restaurant had been aware that from October, staff aged 22 or over will be entitled to a minimum wage salary of £5.75 an hour — before tips.

A spokesman for the Department for Business said: “From October, tip service charges cannot be used to make up minimum wage-level salaries.

“We’re trying to create a level playing field between restaurants. At the moment, some use tips towards salaries and some don’t.

“It’s only fair to staff that they be treated equally across the board, and also to consumers who expect staff to be paid a basic wage and not to be overly reliant on tips for their income.”

He added that until the legislation came into force, “it is possible to pay by tips as long as they reach the minimum wage level and they go through the payroll”.

Melvin Goldberg, who has been manager of Bloom’s restaurant in Golders Green for over 20 years, said that Bloom’s “have always paid waiters a basic wage as well as allowing them to keep tips”.

Rabbi Zvi Lieberman, consultant at JABE, the Jewish Association for Business Ethics, observed: “Jewish law does not directly discuss a minimum wage. The relationship between an employer and employee is contractual and reflects the agreements willingly entered into by the parties in full knowledge of the circumstances and responsibilities.

“At the same time there is a general obligation not to oppress one’s employees and pay the agreed wage on time. Further, we are bound by the law of the land and responsibilities it puts on us.

“Given this, so long as an agreement is legal in secular law and entered into by both parties willingly and in full possession of the facts available, the amount agreed is governed by their mutual agreement.”

A spokesman for the Kashrut Department of the London Beth Din said it was not part of the kashrut brief to enquire how waiters were paid.

    Last updated: 10:58am, May 14 2009