Ireland affordability from a US student standpoint: Restaurant wages

Working in a restaurant can be an extremely exhausting job, especially when there are requests from a multitude of customers flying at you all at once. Luckily, the staffs ability to fulfill these requests timely and politely pays off in the form of monetary compensation; this is usually a successful motivational tool.

In recent months, there have been reports that many restaurants across the city of Dublin and far beyond have been unclear with customers about how their tips are being charged and where that extra cash ends up. For the most part, people assume that a server who provides exceptional service will receive the entirety of the tip that you leave for them. Many times, that assumption is wrong.

The Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty has picked up on this issue, promising workers in this industry that there will be changes to the tipping system. These changes are aimed to make businesses more transparent about how this optional part of the bill is split up within the company.

As a customer, getting information about where my tip is going would sway my opinions heavily about how much I were to leave. If my waitress or wait staff did not receive the money they earned by taking care of me in the business, I would most likely leave little to no tips. The Low Pay Commission of Ireland is aware that this would be the case, and has been attempting to heavily advise the government against putting more regulations into place.

Regina Doherty’s also notes that tips should not “make up or satisfy payment of contractual rates of pay.” Although I understand her underlying argument that businesses should not rely on exceptional performance of their staff to pay a contractually regulated minimum wage, I do not understand her seeming urgency about this issue.

In the US, particularly in Ohio, the minimum wage for any tipped job begins $4.15 below the $8.30 legally regulated minimum wage. Although this seems awful, many of my friends who have worked in the restaurant sector of business make an average of $13 per hour which is $4.70 and hour above an untipped job. Ireland differs significantly from the US, with starting wages at €6.69 and increasing by age and time at the workplace to up to €9.55, not including tips.

Neither country is incorrect in how they are to pay their workers due to the difference in economy, tipping habits and overall culture, but the contrast in pay for the same work can be interesting to look into. Tipping in the US tends to be around 15-20% of the total while in Ireland tipping can range from 0-10%.

What I wonder is whether or not this difference in tipping style would compensate for the lower wages of a tipped full or part time employee, matching or exceeding an untipped worker. Additionally, I wonder if this tipping difference could cause US and Irish workers to be receiving fairly similar hourly wages in restaurant positions.   

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