Facing up to the recruitment challenge

The economy as a whole has been battered over the past 16 months. However, it is acknowledged by all that the hospitality and visitor economy has been hit harder than any other.

The pandemic has been bad enough for our bars, hotels, and restaurants. Lockdowns and continued restrictions limiting numbers who can frequent venues, has seen many well-known pubs and eateries close their doors for good.

A less publicised challenge, but one keenly exercising the minds of the sectors managers currently, is recruitment.

Brexit has made it extremely difficult for the leisure industry to hire, and the shrinking pool of European workers who were the backbone of the hospitality workforce is causing huge staff shortages in many establishments.

Despite pleas from visitor economy representative groups, the government has not yet responded to their proposal to exempt hospitality from Brexit rules. They shouldn’t hold their breath.

But the third, and perhaps longer-term challenge is this: a combination of lockdowns and job insecurity has led many to question why they would work long hours, sacrifice every weekend, and operate on zero-hour contracts for a relative financial pittance.

As much as I sympathise with hospitality venues, one in five of which are facing more than 50 per cent reductions in their takings this year, once we are through Covid, and even if our politicians give them the green light to employ EU citizens again, without a change in attitude to working hours and conditions, they will continue to struggle to employ people.

Out of all crises comes some good. Maybe a radical change in working environments – in the hospitality sector and beyond - is one of the positives that we can look forward to in the post-Covid world.

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