A restaurant group is forcing waiters to pay back 3% of their section's total spend at the end of each shift, disgruntled staff have claimed.
Aqua Italia's employees are giving a minimum of £20 to £30 to the company each night, according to an investigation by the Bristol Post.
Staff told the Post that the money was expected to come from their tips, but if they had not made enough during a shift it had to be paid from their own pocket.
After paying the 3% charge, said to subsidise staffing costs, waiters said they were also asked to give 10% of their tips to bar and kitchen staff.
Sam Rimmer, a former waiter at Aqua Italia in Bristol, told the Post: "I think the 3% policy is absolutely shocking. Basically they're making people rent a section of the restaurant, if you want to work there you have to pay."
Rimmer, 29, resigned in October and said the prospect of handing back hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds over the Christmas period was part of the reason.
He claimed that while covering shifts in a Milton Keynes branch he saw a manager tell a crying waiter to go to a cashpoint to withdraw the money to settle that night's charge.
A senior staff member, speaking to the Post on the condition of anonymity, explained: "This has been going on as long as I've been there. The operations manager thinks that if waiters don't earn enough tips to cover the 3% then they're not doing a good job."
Staff have claimed details of the pay back scheme are outlined in a contract staff must sign at the start of their employment, which was seen by the Post.
The Caterer has contacted Aqua restaurants for comment.
The group has restaurants in Bristol, Bath, Milton Keynes, Portishead, Worthing, and Lewes.
The government is currently considering the results of a consultation on tips, gratuities and and charges.
A document published by the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills in May 2016 said it should be clear to consumers that service charges were voluntary, that tips should be received by workers and that it should be clear to diners how their payment would be treated.
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