minimum wage ontario

People in Ontario debate end of tipping when servers' minimum wage rises to match general

Ontario, unlike some provinces but like most U.S. states, has historically had a lower minimum wage for liquor servers, prompting a culture of tipping not only to acknowledge exceptional service, but also to compensate for the wage disparity.

But, come January 1, 2022, front-of-house workers in hospitality will see their base hourly pay rise from $12.55 to $15 to match a hike in the general minimum wage, which will go from $14.35 to $15.

The provincial government has been slowly increasing minimum wages across the board in recent years — both before and after Premier Doug Ford enacted a wage freeze in 2018, putting the plan for a $15 an hour wage by 2019 on hold — most recently by another 10 cents for both industries at the beginning of October.

But pay rates for liquor servers and general workers have traditionally varied from one another, along with rates for students, homeworkers, and hunting, fishing and wilderness guides.

The forthcoming move to a standardized wage for tipping and non-tipping industries means that many residents are now wondering whether they should continue doling out an additional 18+ per cent each time they drink and dine out, given that the wage gap that may have in part necessitated the tip will be closing in January.

While many parts of the world find North America's tipping culture absolutely absurd, us Canadians tend to tip for many types of services: from bellhops and housekeepers at hotels to Uber and cab drivers to movers and people delivering anything from new appliances to food.

We also normally tip hair stylists, nail technicians, tattoo artists, baristas — anyone providing a service, though aside from liquor servers, all of these people should make at least general minimum wage.

While the idea is that the amount of the tip equates to the quality of the service, there are some positions that indeed involve a level of customer-facing service where workers don't get an extra bonus for doing a good job.

Retail workers, for example, have to engage personably with customers, provide them advice and options for what they're looking for, and generally spend time helping them out one-on-one. Some stores give their staff sales commission with this in mind, but others don't (URBN brands such as Urban Outfitters and Free People come to mind).

There are also workers like flight attendants, whose jobs are very customer service-based but whom we tend not to tip, largely under the assumption that they are making a higher hourly wage and possibly benefits packages not usually offered in hospitality.

The rigor of the work may also be taken into account: Does someone have to deal with jerks on a regular basis, is their job quite physical, are they spending a few minutes making you a craft cocktail or an espresso-based beverage, or simply cracking open a beer? Are they not only doing their job, but going above and beyond to do it well?

One may wonder whether these things are considered when tipping anymore, or if it's just automatic and obligatory to tip those in some industries. (One could argue that most young people tend to tip at least 15 per cent, even if the service is terrible.)

The conversation is proving to be extremely complex and divisive, with some saying they tip to ensure a living wage rather than just a minimum wage, and others arguing that the burden of a living wage should be on the employer rather than the customer, like in Europe and Australia.

There are also those who feel that tipping should continue only under certain circumstances, like if the server is claiming their tips to be taxed (many don't) and/or if they are pooling their tips with coworkers.

(If the latter is the case at a bar or restaurant, it is worth noting that service staff could actually lose money if they don't receive tips, as they still have to tip out their kitchen staff a certain percentage.)

Many speaking on the hot topic online are denouncing tipping culture overall, whether because it permits an industry to continue to pay their employees below a living wage, or because it means those in hospitality can end up making so much more than people in other industries.

It also does seem strange to some that anyone's pay on any given day may rely in part on the mood or morals of a customer.

There's no doubt that the debate will continue right through the change in January, when servers and bartenders will have to wait with bated breath to see how their incomes are effected.

Regardless of the new increase, many people in the province will continue to make far below the actual living wage for where they live, which is around $22.08 in Toronto right now.

Lead photo by

Hector Vasquez at Nothing Fancy

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