Who pays for lunch?

In some industries, taking a client to lunch and picking up the tab might seem like the right way to repay them for their business. But when it comes to grabbing lunch with your support worker, what is the correct etiquette? Who pays for lunch?

The spontaneous lunch date dilemma

Amy has an intellectual disability and is in a wheelchair. Her support worker Helen visits once a fortnight to help Amy run errands, attend educational or social outings, and so on.

Amy wants to have lunch at a local restaurant with Helen, but isn’t sure if she should:

  • Pay for both herself and Helen’s meal since she wants to have lunch out?
  • Agree to split the bill equally, not knowing what Helen might order?
  • Suggest they each pay for their own meals?
  • Decide on a venue that both she and Helen prefer?
  • Have lunch at the restaurant she wants regardless of whether Helen decides to buy food?

Who pays?

Endeavour Foundation Support Worker, Aaron Rose says it is not uncommon for some people with disability to assume their support worker might cover their expenses during a scheduled visit, and in certain circumstances some support workers do. What most people may not realise is their support worker is rarely reimbursed, and the expenses are not tax deductible, which leaves them out of pocket.

According to Aaron, one-on-one visits that extend through a regular meal time may require some advance communication and planning. Establishing a routine that suits you and your support worker will remove any uncertainty about whether you prefer to eat out or at home during their visit. If you opt to eat out, you should also think about what type of food outlet or restaurant you might both prefer.

Whilst there's no hard and fast rules, generally each individual is responsible for their own food expenses when they choose to eat out together.

When is it ok?

When a support worker forms a friendship with a person with disability, they may offer to take them to lunch for their birthday, an anniversary date of their first meeting, or another special occasion. This should always be determined by each individual support worker, the relationship they have with their client, and the circumstances.

Correct etiquette

We all love the idea of a free lunch, but “going dutch”, or splitting the bill is a more accepted practice. So next time remember these things:

Plan ahead – agree a date so both of you can enjoy lunch too

  1. Choose a restaurant and location you both like
  2. Always go dutch or split the bill so you each pay for what you ordered
  3. If you are unsure or need help, your lunch date is also your support worker, and they will help you navigate how, and how much, to pay.

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