It was reported today (29 November) that popular Italian food chain Zizzi has a policy that enables managers to charge waiting staff if customers leave without paying, according to a number of current and past employees.

BuzzFeed News stated that there were a "catalogue of other mistakes", such as accidentally undercharging a customer, taking an invalid voucher or gift card as payment and failing to complete a card payment, which often resulted in money being docked from cash tips.

The claims come from several people who have worked or work at the 149-strong restaurant chain, which is part of the Azzurri Group. While some had no experience of this, several had and alleged that the policy means they are in essence "financially responsible" for their table.

Zizzi allegedly runs on a system of waiters using their own float money to provide correct change. Then, at the end of the shift, if any money is missing, they can expect it to be made up at their own discretion.

According to government legislation, pay deductions are allowed for "something you've done and your contract says you're liable for it" such as a "shortfall in your till if you work in a shop" meaning such practises are in fact legal- they could be widely used across the hospitality and consumer sector as a "shortfall" leaves room for interpretation.

A few sources said that they had paid in excess of £100 on such errors usually out of the cash tips paid to them by customers, or "out of their own pocket".

One employee who had claimed to have covered an entire table's bill after they left without paying said: "All that happens in the end is floor staff – who work really hard for their money – end up paying a lot of money for a mistake that could happen to anyone... Given the size of the company, it always seemed like a real slap in the face."

A spokesperson from Zizzi told IBTimes UK: "The Zizzi cash handling policy is designed to prevent fraud & negligence. It is absolutely not designed to recoup losses from staff for genuine mistakes such as lost credit card receipts.

"Zizzi does & will continue to carry losses such as customers leaving without paying (dine & dash). We will review our policies to ensure this is made clear."

Zizzi began in 1999 and has since stretched 147 restaurants. It specialises in Italian food and as part of the Azzuri Group, contributed to a £262.8m turnover.