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The Covid pandemic and the uncertainty of travel quarantine arrangements has meant that a large majority of the Great British public have been staycationing in the UK this year.  Whilst this is a welcome boost for the UK Hospitality industry,  many seaside towns across the country have been unable to meet demand with  huge queues outside hosteleries and  “staff wanted” signs in every pub and restaurant.

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A candidate driven market 

We are currently in a candidate driven market in virtually every sector across the UK, but it is felt most keenly in the hospitality sector.  

It is undeniable that the double blow of Brexit and Covid,  has had a devastating effect on the industry with one in five wokers leaving the hospitality sector during the last year alone. 

The reasons? - concerns over job security, longevity and pay. The impact of the pandemic on the industry has also  meant that many  workers have been furloughed, giving them opportunity to re-evaluate their priorities. Some have taken jobs in other industries and found the “grass to be greener.”

Finally, In an industry which has historically been largely reliant on EU labour, the pandemic has seen many EU workers return to their home countries.  The end of freedom of movement for EU workers and restrictions of the UK’s new immigration system  has also impacted EU workers ability to work in the UK.

What of the future? The flow of talent into the industry has also been badly affected by the pandemic with disruption to college courses.

The post pandemic new world and the battle for talent 

So how can leisure and hospitality employers adapt to meet the challenges and opportunities presented by the post- pandemic new world? 

The industry’s culture has historically been associated with long working hours and low levels of pay. Now is an opportunity for  the industry to reevaluate and restructure and look at changes to working conditions, skills and personal development.  The industry’s trade body, UK Hospitality, has recently unveiled a 12 point plan which aims to attract more candidates to the sector. This includes short, medium and long term measures and increased collaboration between the sector and the Department of Work and Pensions.

Culture and Values

For employers in the sector who want to attract the best candidates in a shrinking talent pool, they must first identify what differentiates them from their competitors. What values, behaviours and ethos can they demonstrate that are attractive to new recruits?. Our Leisure and Hospitality sector clients report that, whilst salary is an important factor, candidates make decisions based on an organisation’s  approach to flexible working, Diversity and Inclusion,  Corporate Social Responsibility and environmental issues.

It is therefore crucial for businesses to not only engender values and vision which are attractive to new recruits but for their culture, brand and reputation to be readily identifiable through their online presence and evidenced with success stories and positive messaging.

How to deal with Shortage Occupations

Of course. in some areas there are simply not enough skilled candidates. There is a well recognised UK shortage of certain roles in the Hospitality industry, such as specialist chefs.

A long term approach is required to to resolve this issue with a focus on valuing vocational education and attracting more young people into the industry.

However. In the meantime ,UK Hospitality is calling on the government to urgently amend its shortage occupation list so that employers who are finding it difficult to recruit from the UK can apply for a Sponsorship Licence to recruit candidates from overseas into these specialist roles. 

Retaining talent

Whilst attracting new talent is important  so is retaining the talent you already have. Furlough and the pandemic have given existing employees an opportunity to re-evaluate their priorities. Understanding your employees and what matters to them is key. 

After the  uncertainty of the last 18 months, benefits and initiatives on wellbeing and mental health are of increasing importance.

Career progression is also key. Employees are looking for clear and transparent progression structures. As part of their plan,  UK hospitality will be launching a retention campaign to help businesses in the sector evaluate and redefine their promotion structures. Investment in training is also required and freezing the liquidation of the employer’s Apprenticeship levy fund is also proposed. 

Other initiatives include reducing the rate of VAT and doubling the employer national insurance contributions thresholds to support growing businesses.

It is going to be challenging time for the industry in the next few years but taking positive steps now will ensure business not only survive but thrive in the post pandemic era.

Consistent with our policy when giving comment and advice on a non-specific basis, we cannot assume legal responsibility for the accuracy of any particular statement. In the case of specific problems we recommend that professional advice be sought.


Get in touch

If you have any questions relating to this article or have any employment issues you would like to discuss, please contact Claire on [email protected]

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