A NATIONAL restaurant chain which originated in Scotland has been criticised by workers' unions for paying its staff less than the minimum wage.
Loch Fyne Restaurants prides itself as a champion of marine conservation and ethical practices but has admitted that it relies on credit card tips from customers to top up the wages of its staff to the minimum legal level.
Members of staff in its nationwide chain of 38 restaurants are paid 5.05p an hour. The minimum wage is 5.52 per hour.
Gratuities are optional and in the case of cash, this goes immediately to the staff.
But if tips are paid via credit cards, the minimum wage legislation allows the company to include the tips as part of the minimum wage.
The practice has been criticised as unfair and unethical by the Unite union.
It described Loch Fyne's policy as "appalling" and called for all staff to be paid the minimum wage exclusive of tips.
It is pressing the Government to alter the rules on the minimum wage to stop restaurants including tips in the calculation of employee earnings.
The first Loch Fyne Oyster Bar opened in Argyll 1988 in followed by Nottingham in 1990 and Peterborough in 1992. In 1998 Loch Fyne Restaurants was founded and it now employs 1,200 staff.
Yesterday, it confirmed that many employees at Loch Fyne Restaurants were on a starting wage of 5.05 per hour.
A spokeswoman said: "None of our staff take home less than the minimum wage." Given the concern, the company said it would now consult its staff on the fairness of its policy.
"Whilst this is an extremely complicated issue, in light of criticism levelled at us we will undertake an independent survey amongst our staff."