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Hospitality staff shortage: What employers need to do to attract staff

"It’s about making sure that hospitality is seen to be a nice place to work, pays well, looks after you, with health and wellbeing at the top of the list."

Long hours, no breaks and chaotic shift patterns are just some of the complaints from staff hanging on during a hospitality staffing shortage sparked by the pandemic and Brexit.

Many have left the industry since March 2020 when Covid restrictions forced venues to close, while others who were furloughed cite low pay and lack of career progression as a reason not to return. Also, EU workers who would traditionally fill several hospitality roles have left post-Brexit or returned to their home countries during UK lockdowns.

Nearly one in 10 hospitality roles is vacant, which suggests a shortage of more than 180,000 workers, according to recent figures by trade association UKHospitality.

The organisation has launched a 12-point plan to tackle the hospitality staff shortage, which includes launching a recruitment and retention campaign.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive, said: “Hospitality offers a wonderfully diverse range of roles and exciting careers and is a stable employer for millions of people across the UK. Staff at all levels play a crucial role delivering world-class hospitality at the very heart of their communities, with employers large and small offering high-class training schemes, apprenticeships and career development pathways.

“However, it’s clear that we need to attract new people to our sector and highlight the benefits of a job or career in hospitality. Prior to the pandemic, we employed 3.2m people and were the third largest private sector employer in the UK. By working closely with the government on implementing this plan, the sector can restore confidence and bounce back even stronger, so hospitality is once again seen as a dynamic and exciting sector of growth, and a provider of fulfilling careers that will help power the UK’s economic and social recovery.”

The hospitality staff shortage presents a good opportunity for potential candidates to get a good package, or returning workers to negotiate better working conditions, says Matthew Moore, managing director of online jobs board CV Library.

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Here’s what experts think hospitality employers need to do to attract top candidates

Salary, benefits and working conditions

“It’s a competitive market and I think employers have to look at how they view their employees, whether it’s salary, benefits or working conditions,” says Moore. “It puts the candidate in a more powerful position than previously.” 

Career progression

“How you’re viewed as an employer is really important and it’s about showing that staff can develop a career and progress wherever they start, Moore adds. Showing how they could move up and it could lead on to many other things is crucial in attracting the right person.”

Health and wellbeing

Paul Gilley, founder of hospitality recruitment site PJ Search, says: “It’s about making sure that hospitality is seen to be a nice place to work, pays well, looks after you, with health and wellbeing at the top of the list.” 

Better pay

Gilley adds: “Instead of hospitality’s Victorian past of paying not very much and working people to the bone, I think everybody is making sure they are paying a great wage and looking after their staff and encouraging them to develop within hospitality.”

Training

Mark Bowden, director of the National Hospitality Academy, which offers training across the UK, says upskilling staff should be a priority. “People will always go out eating in restaurants and drinking in pubs and bars. But they’ll always spend our money at the best places.

“In an industry that wants people to use it in a big way, you’ve got to really stand out about the crowd. If you want people’s money, you need to train staff.”

The National Hospitality Academy offers its training courses to businesses for a fixed monthly fee, to encourage them to train everybody, regardless of the number of hours they work.

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Thinking outside of the box

Chris Gamm, chief executive of hospitality careers specialists Springboard, points out that working in hospitality doesn’t mean taking on a front-of-house role. “Very often, when thinking about roles in hospitality, we think of chefs or front of house roles – and whilst these are key roles there’s a wide range of jobs available. The industry is fast moving and entrepreneurial; it needs not only chefs and service expertise, but experts in technology, finance, IT, HR and marketing too.

“Retraining is a great opportunity for people to develop new skills, explore new career opportunities and realise their full potential. It’s become a genuine option for people who have faced redundancy or been placed on furlough as a result of the pandemic, to prepare for new ventures in other industries.”

Springboard has launched an initiative called ‘Springboard to 2022′, which aims to train 10,000 young people ready to join the hospitality industry by 2022. 

Gamm adds: “Our training schemes offer young people the opportunity to develop skills across a wide range of job roles which are available in the industry. These young people are essential to protect the future of our industry. To take the pressure off employers, we’re acting as a central hub to seek out, secure, train and nurture the future talent pipeline. We will then work with those we’ve trained to help them identify roles and, ultimately, get them into employment.”

The union’s view

Trade Union Unite has created a Fair Hospitality Charter, which includes calling for a living wage of £10 per hour, equal pay for young workers, minimum hour contracts, “proper and paid” rest breaks, 100 per cent of tips to staff and consultations on rota changes.

A Unite spokesman said: “The recruitment crisis in hospitality won’t be resolved until employers treat workers as people and not as exploitable commodities.

“That means decent rates of pay, manageable hours and decent terms and conditions.”

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