Hospitality: where did all my workers go – and what can I do about it?

What a rough old time it’s been for hospitality in the UK. Unarguably, the sector that’s been hit the hardest by the coronavirus pandemic, with restrictions making it either impossible or extremely difficult to trade at times. And while it appears we’re currently out of the woods, hospitality managers would say we’re a far cry from where we were before March 2020 when the bells rang and the doors closed to commence lockdown v1.

Since then, many pubs and restaurants have failed in full to recover while others are all but ‘surviving’, dipping in and out of lockdowns and opening any time they’re permitted just to keep the lights on. It’s been far from plain sailing for some and a complete catastrophe for others.

And then, just when we start to think we’re on the better side of things again, with restrictions lifting this year and almost a feeling of ‘normal’ returning, the sector faces its latest crisis. A shortage of staff.

What is happening to hospitality?

One thing the pandemic has done for many people across all walks of life is causing them to rethink. It’s by no means limited to hospitality, with other sectors also reporting a shortage in people currently applying for roles. However, it seems hospitality is again the one being smashed sideways with masses of jobs available and yet no one queueing up to fill them.

People who have exited hospitality during the pandemic and taken on a new role might well feel nervous about switching back to their old one for fear of another lockdown.  It is an understandable worry – one nobody can bring reassurance – and it will no doubt continue to cause caution among many.

So, what’s going on?

Repositioning the sector

The trouble with hospitality is its image. At least, that’s what many experts in the sector are now claiming, with people heading into hospitality roles doing so with a temporary fix in mind rather than a long-term career.

It’s a fair point when many roles are snapped up by students or young people on a part-time basis. Even the die-hards who work several shifts per week often see their job as ‘a means to an end’ as opposed to a permanent one.

It’s a situation some in the industry are ready to tackle head-on. Mark McCulloch, CEO of Hospitality Marketing Agency, Supersonic, and David MacDowall, COO of Brewdog, have launched a campaign to attract people back into hospitality roles and quickly. By targeting young people looking for their first job, and others already working who have transferable skills or are looking to retrain, they hope to bridge the people gap and help pubs and restaurants support the demands of their customers.

Making the sector hospitable

It’s no secret the sector has had a bad wrap over the years. The hours can be anything but hospitable – not to mention the pay rates – and it seems claims are circulating once again about the poor working conditions.

It’s fair enough when some are being asked to work back to back double-shifts, as recent murmurs in the press have suggested. No wonder workers feel exhausted and robbed of their social lives (and all this while they’re typically so young). Others commenting have highlighted a ‘stay out all night’ mentality where they feel pressure to hang around and socialize with workmates after their shift ends, often well into the night.

It’s all about the work/life balance these days, a point that many restaurants and bars find a challenge due to their operating hours and the impact this has on their staff. Finding a midpoint here could be crucial in tempting people back behind the bar again, limiting the hours spent working each week so they remain manageable and sharing the twilight shifts fairly across the team.


The introduction of the furlough scheme back in March 2020 brought some welcome financial support for the hospitality sector.  As it now tries to reopen its doors and managers ask employees to return to work, many staff are requesting to remain on furlough. One reason is that staff are worried about being forced into isolating when team members or customers test positive, potentially impacting themselves and their family members.  In addition, some staff are nervous about the chance of the hospitality sector closing again and feel reluctant to move away from a role taken while on furlough.

While it is up to the employer to decide when an employee should return, pressure from their staff to remain on furlough is not ideal and creates further problems for business owners. Do they push for good workers to return and risk losing them altogether, or do they agree to their extended absence?

Flexibility and wellbeing 

Another growth area in our lives – even more so thanks to the pandemic – is wellbeing. People are looking for an employer who sympathises with today’s many life demands and if businesses in the hospitality sector are unable to show their mindful side it’s unlikely they’ll find candidates to fill their vacancies.

It’s where away days, team night’s out and birthday bonuses come into play. Even offering wellbeing benefits such as gym memberships or access to a massage can help.  Increasing holiday entitlement can also incentivise staff as it assures them of more quality time with their families. Anything that says ‘we care’ will go a long way towards showing staff you have their interests at heart.

In need of some HR advice? Wherever you are in the UK, you can arrange a chat with one of our friendly professional HR advisors at any time.

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Hospitality Sector Must Remember Their Legal Obligations Following 2020 Employment Ruling

A nation rejoiced this month as tens of thousands of pubs, bars and restaurants reopened their doors to serve patrons old and new in outdoor settings UK-wide. From May 17th we will see the majority of the industry opened up and getting back to trading.

Of course, it’s not just those of us who’ve missed frequenting our ‘local’ or favourite eatery cracking open a bottle or two in celebration. No one is more pleased than the countless business owners forced to cease trading on January 5 when the most recent lockdown came into force, and that’s on top of the many months they’d had to shut up shop during the previous year.

Unfortunately, with so many business closures – temporary and permanent – across the hospitality sector, many people have found themselves unemployed as a result. While some have since found alternative jobs in other industries, likely there are plenty champing at the bit to return to the work they know and love this week. And hospitality business owners can’t wait to have them back, on hand to serve a nation that is extremely hungry and thirsty if the number of bookings to leading apps such as TheFork are anything to go by.

It begs the question, is the hospitality industry ready to return to work? While business owners have had several months to prepare for the grand reopening, this doesn’t guarantee they have all of their paperwork in order ready for the latest influx in workers. And with a legal ruling now in play to ensure all employees have the same rights to written terms regardless of any contract, their role type or sector, it’s imperative managers are up to speed on workers’ rights and the hiring process.

What is the right to written terms?

Passed into law on 6th April 2020, the Written Statement of Employment Particulars ensures every person employed in the UK has a document to outline their key particulars such as hours of work and pay rate.  This was done to make sure employees are treated fairly, even those with no formal employment contract in place.

Since the hospitality sector has a high percentage of workers deemed as casual –  that being, with no formal contract in place – anyone working in HR or tasked with hiring needs to become familiar with the legislation that has been in effect now for the past year.

While not the same as an employment contract, some of the information within a contract may also be found within a written terms document.

What information is included in a written terms document?

There are several key components to a written terms document, including:

  • Name and address of the employee as well as their job title, place of work (including an address), their key responsibilities and start date
  • Number of hours the employee is expected to work and how often
  • The period of notice required by the employee and for fixed-term contracts, clear details of the contract start and end dates
  • Pay and entitlements such as the number of days’ holiday permitted and rate of holiday pay, number of sick days and sickness pay, and any other entitlements such as childcare vouchers, a company pension or car allowance

What other documents are mandatory with a new hire?

Also deemed as best practice, directing new hires toward any policies or rules on how a company operates and what is expected of them as an employee – such as a code of conduct – or training manuals necessary to perform their role.

This is provided to an employee on or before their first day of work. Anyone who began their job before the legislation being introduced last April, and want to receive written terms, can request this be provided by their employer (who is obliged to do so within 1 month of receiving the request).

Written terms can also be requested in retrospect of leaving employment, so long as an employee asks for this document within three months of their leaving the role.

Remember that this legislation applies to all industry sectors and not just hospitality.

In need of some HR advice or need some help with Written Terms? Wherever you are in the UK, you can arrange a chat with one of our friendly professional HR advisors at any time. You can also see more of what we do on our website HR Support

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