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Hospitaly News: The industry only has itself to blame for the UK recruitment crisis

26 Feb 17:00 by Fiona McKay

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HOSPITALITY NEWS: The hospitality industry “only has itself to blame” for its recruitment crisis

That’s according to the Unite union, which has responded to news from the British Hospitality Association (BHA) that it could take 10 years to fill the sector’s skills gap and reduce its reliance on EU workers.

The BHA has produced a 10-year plan calling for continued access to the EU workforce, with the reliance on foreign workers steadily declining throughout the period. The BHA recommends that the gap could be filled by focusing on three main sections of the population – the unemployed, returners to the labour market such as older people, and the next generation.

According to a KPMG report commissioned by the BHA, the hospitality industry requires an additional 60,000 workers per year on top of the 200,000 workers required to replace churn.

But Unite regional officer, Dave Turnbull said: “Despite being the UK’s fourth largest employer, with over three million workers, the hospitality sector has always faced major retention and recruitment problems and still has one of the highest staff turnover rates of any sector.  It only has itself to blame.

“If the hospitality industry expects to cope with a recruitment crisis post- Brexit, there needs to be a sea change in the way it operates. The ‘race to the bottom’ business model adopted by the industry where staff are paid a pittance, cheated out of their fair tips and made to work all the hours under the sun, often with no extra pay, needs to be challenged and dismantled.

“There is no escaping that this is an impending crisis of the industry’s own making. Recent months have seen even more restaurants exposed for ‘creaming off’ staff tips, despite the government’s promise to crackdown on such scams, and workers being paid below the minimum wage in a Michelin-starred restaurant.

“Workers are driven from the industry because of its low wage, long hour and exploitative culture. Far from offering them concessions, the government should be calling on it to account for its negligence. We need an industry that properly respects and rewards the skills of its workforce. Not one that relies so heavily on the exploitation of high levels of migrant workers.

“We also need this government to stop sitting on its hands and publish the recommendations of its consultation on tipping, now nine months overdue. Hospitality workers deserve nothing less.”

Earlier today, BHA chief executive Ufi Ibrahim said: “It is clear from the KPMG report that hospitality and tourism face major problems in recruitment if there is any major cut in the number of workers allowed to enter from the EU. We want to avoid there being any cliff edge, but the government must be aware that in the medium to long term we will still need considerable numbers of EU workers, who have contributed so much to our industry and the UK economy in general.

“We have submitted our strategy to Number 10 Downing Street because we are aware of our responsibility to encourage more UK nationals to see the career opportunities available in hospitality and tourism. We do need the government to play their part too, by recognising our employment needs and recognising how important this industry, the fourth largest, is to the country.”

The BHA’s report was welcomed by the ALMR as a useful tool when it came to Brexit negotiations.

ALMR chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “At present, licensed hospitality businesses rely significantly on migrant employees, particularly workers from the EU. ALMR research shows that almost a quarter of the total hospitality and tourism workforce is comprised of non-UK workers, rising to nearly 40% for eating and drinking-out businesses, and almost half of those come from within the EU.

SOURCE: THE CATERER