Waiters and a wide range of other services industry employees are often tipped for their good work and as a sign of gratitude.

Why when a teacher or a doctor is being tipped, it counts as bribery and is therefore illegal?


It is generally legal to tip anyone; it is just not culturally done. Lots of things are legal, but culturally inappropriate.

As an aside, tipping waiters in Australia is only done for exceptional service; not as a matter of routine. This is culturally different from say the USA.

From the Judicial Commission of NSW:

The common law offence of bribery is constituted by the receiving or offering of an undue reward by or to any person in public office, in order to influence that person’s behaviour in that office, and to incline that person to act contrary to accepted rules of honesty and integrity. The offence can be constituted by the mere offer of a corrupt inducement, even if the offer is rejected.

The offence of bribery can be constituted by the making or offering of a payment with an intent to incline a person in public office to disregard his or her duty at some future time — the occasion for the disregard of duty need not have arisen at the time of the offence, and it need never arise: R v Allen (1992) 27 NSWLR 398 at 402.

A gratuity is not a bribe: it post-dates the service provided and was not foreshadowed. However, if it is part of an ongoing relationship, that may be problematic.

  • It may well be a criminal offense to tip a teacher who teaches at a public school, though: government employees oftentimes have extremely strict restrictions on gratuities.
    – cpast
    Nov 26 '15 at 20:33
  • @cpast possibly, but not a common law offense, that is, there would need to be a statute making it so. Of course, the court may decide on a broad interpretation of public office.
    – Dale M
    Nov 26 '15 at 21:54

I have never heard that it's illegal to tip a teacher or a doctor. That sounds absurd to me. Tipping would only present a problem where there is a question of AGENCY, particularly with respect to public services (i.e. municipal/state agency, etc.)

  • Teachers in a public school (and also private schools, but especially public since they're government employees) raise exactly those concerns of agency. Teachers grade students, and it's illegitimate to do it based on tips. And public employees generally have the blanket ban.
    – cpast
    Nov 26 '15 at 17:39

There's no law against tipping a teacher or a doctor. But it's "not done" in those cases because it is not the custom of the profession, whereas it IS an accepted "custom" for waiters, at least in the United States.

Almost alone among professions, it is legal for a restaurant to pay waitstaff only 60% of minimum wage. The rationale is that the waiter/waitress will earn at least 40% of minimum wage through tips. Meaning that it is considered an accepted and "usual" part of their compensation. This is true for practically no other profession.

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