How will the government's Hospitality Strategy help bring about business recovery?
CAROLINE MATTHEWS >
ConsultantWed 20 October 2021
There has been a lot of press coverage recently about staff shortages across all businesses, with numerous reports about the shortfall in the number of lorry drivers and service quality issues for pubs and restaurants.
Data shows that some sectors are facing significantly greater challenges in recruiting staff than others at what is a critical time for businesses trying to recover from the worst effects of the pandemic.
Figures released last month by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that staff shortages are particularly acute in the hospitality sector, defined as “accommodation and food service activities”. In the reporting period 23rd August to 5th September, 30% of hospitality businesses reported that they are finding it more difficult to fill job vacancies this year by comparison to a normal year.
The next most affected sectors were the water and health industries, with education and property reporting the least disruption to normal patterns. The ONS figures suggest that the hospitality industry, which has endured massive Covid-19 disruption over the last 18 months or so, is by far the most severely impacted sector in this area.
A significant factor in the overall picture is the reported reduction in the number of workers coming from the EU as against normal expectations. Of the sectors reporting increased difficulties in filling vacancies, hospitality is among the most likely to be attracting lower numbers of EU staff, due in part to a number of possible factors including Covid-19 restrictions and Brexit. Workers may also be moving to other sectors to find work.
The ONS report shows that the number of job vacancies across the country is still rising, with the hospitality sector again singled out as showing a record number of new vacancies between June and August. However, employed workers on the payroll are still below pre-pandemic levels. The ending of the furlough scheme at the end of last month will no doubt bring about other challenges.
The Strategy’s remit is to bring about the recovery and growth of restaurants, pubs, cafes and nightclub businesses, which it recognises have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. It is very clear that the hospitality industry plays a vital role in our local communities and is in need of incentives and forward planning to rebuild.
The Strategy focusses on:
- Examining vocational training and enhanced career paths, liaison with universities.
- Raising the profile of careers in hospitality, recognising and supporting opportunities for flexible, part time and vocational career paths
- Continuing economic support with continuing access to grants and business rates relief.
- Encouraging new business and supporting increased digital advances
- Exploring sustainability measures to cut waste
- Extending regulatory freedoms such as the continued easing of pavement licence and takeaway alcohol regulation and the increase in the number of permitted TENs for one off events.
Progress has been made since July, with the creation of a Hospitality Council, co-chaired by Business Minister Paul Scully and Karen Jones, chair of Prezzo. Its remit is to support the implementation of the Hospitality Strategy’s stated aims, with members drawn from a cross section of influential leaders in the industry. The Council held its first meeting on 29th September.
The Home Office issued new guidance on 30th September extending the relaxation of sales of takeaway alcohol and temporary pavement licensing provisions until September 2022. Note that a new expedited review process has also been introduced.
Free Courses for Jobs has added a range of new courses to help gain qualifications within the industry including food and beverage supervision and professional cookery
The National Employers and Partners Team and other agencies are looking at ways to fill job vacancies using schemes such as Kickstart and Plan for Jobs programmes
Two other recently published government initiatives, the High Streets Strategy and the Tourism Strategy, address similar themes. The signs are positive; the creation of a strong, diverse Hospitality Council. This and other initiatives directly targeting the hospitality sector will send a strong message to businesses that the enormous challenges faced by all parts of the industry are acknowledged and its recovery will be supported on the long road back to normality.
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