Stephen Jardine: But how well is your waiter paid?

Stephen Jardine. Picture: Jon Savage
Stephen Jardine. Picture: Jon Savage
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According to research, 80 per cent of people say they would not use a company which paid staff less than the minimum wage.

That’s bad news for Glasgow-based leisure chain G1 which this week it was named and shamed by the UK government for doing just that.

The company was found to have underpaid staff by more than £45,000. This from a firm which saw pre-tax profits rise to £8.17 million in 2013.

In its defence, G1 blamed the situation on deductions made to cover uniforms and staff training.

“We understand that in effect, this has previously brought some employees marginally below the minimum wage in some pay periods. For this reason, we no longer apply these deductions, and any associated repayments have been made in light of this issue being highlighted, “ the company said in a statement.

It went on to reinforce the emphasis it places on the training and development of staff, from junior roles on national minimum wage all the way through to senior management levels.

There is no doubt, wages are a big challenge for the hospitality sector. With consumers looking for keen rates and other costs increasing, the pressure is always on to keep spending on salaries as low as possible.

Traditionally, the industry looks to other ways to support staff. From live-in accommodation to free meals and flexible working hours, there are many additional benefits to working in hospitality.

It’s also a sector marked by lots of training support and remarkable opportunities to take skills elsewhere in Britain or even abroad.

But all that said, the national minimum wage exists for a reason and it’s strict implementation should be a measure of the respect employers attach to their staff.

Some go a step further. Edinburgh based Rabbie’s Small Group Tours have lifted everyone working at the company from the national minimum wage of £6.31 to the living wage rate of £7.65.

“We firmly believe that the living wage is right for our employees and their families, right for business development and right for Rabbie’s by sustaining valuable skills and jobs”, said Rabbie’s joint managing director Jeff Ferguson.

Feedback has been positive, with staff feeling that they work for a “caring” ethical company

That is a crucial point. The curse of hospitality has often been high staff turnover. Making employees feel genuinely valued will help tackle that.

The National Minimum Wage Commission says 90 per cent of people questioned for a survey view companies which dodge their legal responsibility as “a disgrace”. Avoiding that label must surely be worth £6.31 an hour.