New laws governing the practice of tipping come into force from today, providing a boost to workers' rights.

Under the Payment of Wages Act employees now have a legal entitlement to receive tips and gratuities paid in electronic form.

The new law also requires that this money should be paid to workers in a manner that is fair.

It will also make it illegal for tips, gratuities, and service charges to make up part of an employee's basic wages.

The rules also require that any charge called a "service charge" or anything that would lead a customer to believe it is a charge for service will have to be distributed to staff as if it were a tip or gratuity received by electronic means.

However, the distribution of tips can take into account various factors.

These include the seniority or experience of an employee, the value of sales generated by them or the number of hours worked.

Under the regulations, employers will have to display information on how tips, gratuities and mandatory charges are shared or distributed among staff.

The main sectors to which the measures will apply are tourism, hospitality, hairdressing, taxi, and delivery services.

Others, however, may be added to the list in the future if new areas where tipping is prevalent emerge in the economy.

The legislation was backed by the Tanaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Unemployment, Leo Varadkar.

His successor in that ministry following the December 17th Government changeover is required under the new law to review the legislation after it has been in effect for one year.

This will enable the Government to assess the effectiveness of the measures and to decide whether any further steps are necessary.

The Chief Executive of the Restaurants Association of Ireland has said they are concerned that the new laws on tipping for hospitality workers will result in lower pay for many in the sector.

Adrian Cummins said the new law, which governs electronic tips, will result in hospitality staff having to pay tax on their tips and employers being subject to PRSI.

The group will be lobbying the Government over the next few months to push for tips for staff in the sector to be made tax free, Mr Cummins said.

This is echoed by recruitment specialist, Excel Recruitment, which is calling on the Government to boost the incomes of lower-paid earners in sectors such as beauty and hospitality by removing tips - or a certain amount of tips - from the tax net.

This, it claims, would encourage more workers back into hospitality and other low-paid sectors.

"All tips received by staff are currently taxable," said Shane McLave of Excel Recruitment.

"However, given the often low-paid nature of the work - and the huge staff shortages which the hospitality sector is currently grappling with, more people could be encouraged to work in the sector if tips were not taxable - or if they could earn a certain portion of them tax-free."

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions has said the new legislation means employers must have and display a policy on how tips are divided and distributed among staff, and it is important that employees are aware of this.

Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, ICTU's Fiona Dunne said the service charge was often retained by employers but must now be returned to workers.

She also said this does not change tax rules and that "20% of 100% tips is more than 100% of zero" anyway.

"This is the lowest paid sector in the country and tipping is just one element that we worked on in terms of inequality," she said.

Regulations welcomed by restaurant workers in Galway

The new regulations have been given a warm welcome by restaurant workers RTÉ News spoke to in Galway today.

While Leah Nolan's employer already ensures tips go directly to staff, she feels it’s good for customers to have clarity too " because we get asked very often where our tips go".

The waitress feels the reassurance is good for all concerned.

Café manager, Hazel Bradley also agrees: "The first I heard of it was this morning on the radio on the way into work and that we have to legally display a sign, letting customers know what we do with the tips. Here, they're divided evenly amongst all staff. The owner or higher-up management don't take anything all the floor staff and kitchen staff get an even amount. I think customers are more comfortable tipping when they know that it's going directly to the staff."

Originally from Spain, Kristall Hernnandez is also working tables in Galway this winter: "I think it's a good idea because you are going to be sure that you are getting your tips. I don't calculate it as a disposable income, but I think it's a reward for my good job if I'm taking care of my customers or my tables. I think it's very good we have new rules about it."

Additional reporting: Kate Egan, Pat McGrath