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Should I be tipping more during Covid-19?

Should I be tipping more during Covid-19?
Image source: Getty Images.


Is there a “right” amount to tip service workers during Covid-19? No, but a little extra could go a long way. Here’s a guide to tipping during Covid-19.   

British attitudes towards tipping

Let’s face it – tipping etiquette is a minefield. And to make it even more complicated, there’s no obligation in Britain to tip anyone. So is there such a thing as a “right” amount to tip service workers? And who should you actually tip, anyway?

Before we look at Covid-19 tip etiquette, let’s quickly run over some British tipping customs.

The service charge

No discussion on British tipping etiquette is complete without touching on the dreaded “service charge”. This is a 10-15% charge added to your bill for services rendered. The problem? Servers don’t usually see this money, which is why around one in 10 Brits refuse to pay these charges and opt to leave a cash tip instead. 

What do these stats tell us? Well, the British aren’t shy about leaving tips, and they want to make sure the tips go to staff rather than employers. But is there scope for tipping more? Absolutely. Here’s why better tipping during Covid-19 is a good idea.  

How Covid-19 affected the service industry

It’s a fact that service workers are among the lowest paid workers in the UK. Here’s how Covid-19 has only made their situation worse. 

  • Small hospitality businesses, such as independent pubs, have lost over 50% of their monthly income since the pandemic started.
  • During March and April, over 85% of hospitality workers were furloughed, with no access to the tips that previously bolstered their weekly and monthly incomes.
  • While the “Eat Out to Help Out” scheme drove up business in August, the trend towards rolling and localised lockdowns will inevitably affect the hospitality sector again. 
  • There’s the new expense of providing PPE and other infection controls, and many workers are expected to buy their own face coverings.  
  • We’re not leaving cash on the table anymore, since many business can’t accept cash right now. Not everyone is comfortable tipping by card – there’s a worry the staff won’t see it. 

If we think about it, there’s a lot falling against service workers at the moment. So, should we support good service by increasing our tips a little? I think so. Here’s the lowdown on tipping by card during Covid-19.

Cashless tipping 

Although it’s too early to tell, we could be moving towards a cashless society. The good news is that it’s absolutely possible to leave a tip for service staff on your credit card. Here’s why. 

  • The tips go into a system pool.
  • Another member of staff, such as a head waiter, has access to this pool and shares out the tips between the staff. 
  • Sometimes, the tips go directly through payroll instead, but they’re still allocated around staff. 

Sure, we can’t guarantee that right service workers get the right tips if we pay by card. But as credit card and contactless payments become commonplace, this is an issue we’ll have to get used to. 

Who should I tip? 

Okay, so you’re happy to tip service workers. But who should you leave a tip for? Unfortunately, there’s no right answer to this. However, here’s a list of the workers you should consider tipping during Covid-19, and my suggestions for a fair tip during these challenging times. 

  • Bar staff (£1 per alcoholic drink, or 50p per soft drink)
  • Waiting staff (20% of the bill)
  • Delivery drivers (10% of the grocery bill value or £3)
  • Taxi drivers (10% of the fare)
  • Barbers and hairdressers (15% of the bill)
  • Beauty salon workers (15% of the bill)
  • Hotel workers (£3-5)
  • Window cleaners (£3)
  • Gardeners (£3)

So, should I tip more during Covid-19?

Many people have serious financial concerns right now, so upping your tip game may not be an option. But if you can afford it, consider adding a few quid extra when paying the bill. You can be sure the service workers will appreciate it, especially during challenging financial times like these. 

And here’s a final thought: once the pandemic ends, why shouldn’t higher tips be here to stay? 

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