What hospitality HR hurdles should professionals have on their radar?

25 Jun 21 by Charlotte Ashton

With the restrictions on day-to-day ‘lockdown life’ being gradually lifted, the hospitality sector is opening up and finding that there is a significant shortage of workers. Brexit, combined with the displacement of many people through the pandemic, means that employers are now struggling to fill vacancies. In addition to these issues, the hospitality sector also acknowledges it needs to ensure it is an attractive proposition for recruits by promoting potential career paths.

Therefore, when it comes to facing these challenges, HR professionals must be creative to ensure that any recruitment difficulties are mitigated, and the hospitality sector can come out of the pandemic stronger than ever.

Our senior solicitor Charlotte Ashton explores five huge concerns currently facing this industry, and provides legal guidance and employee relations (ER) advice on how organisations – and their HR departments – can tackle these challenges head-on…

1. The Brexit effect

Much has been made of the impact of Brexit on the hospitality sector with many positions – normally held by EU workers – now being left open due to workers leaving the UK, and the need for new EU workers coming to the UK to hold a visa. EU workers within the UK can carry on living and working here, provided they apply to the settlement scheme by the end of June 2021.

When hiring from outside the UK, an employer requires a sponsor licence and the role will need to be considered skilled enough for the individual to obtain a visa.

The ‘skilled worker’ visa is intended to be a simpler process than its predecessor, the Tier 2 visa, however, it still poses a challenge for the hospitality sector. The main issues centre on many hospitality roles not being considered skilled enough and those which are, may fall short on the required minimum salary.

Roles which may be sponsored include head chefs, speciality chefs, and sous chefs as well as hotel managers. Employers considering this option will need to take specialist advice to ensure the jobs they are trying to fill, will allow them to sponsor workers from outside the UK.

2. Promoting hospitality as a career

In order to attract new recruits into this sector, the potential career paths available should be highlighted. HR teams can work with managers to ensure that policies and procedures around recruitment, training, retention, and promotion are clear and understandable so anyone joining a business can see there is a long-term future.

One appealing proposition for potential new recruits is the opportunity for individuals to complete apprenticeships, and this also has a positive effect on employee retention. Government incentives are available for businesses who take on new apprentices too, which makes this an attractive option for organisations to implement.

3. Why organisations might want to focus on providing re-training opportunities

Many hospitality businesses have had to evolve their offer to keep going throughout the pandemic, which naturally results in a change in how staff work. This could mean that fewer front of house staff are required, with more roles available for workers with particular skills – especially in kitchens.

HR teams can work with their managers to look at re-training and upskilling opportunities for current staff who are on furlough, and can therefore return to other relevant positions. Development programmes can be planned too, with a view to long-term talent retention who make up a multi-skilled workforce.

4. The importance of prioritising wellbeing

The pandemic has highlighted the need to focus on staff wellbeing with many individuals suffering mental health issues due to the distress and confusion of the pandemic. HR managers should review policies around taking care of staff mental health and focus on Employee Assistance Programmes and other benefits to ensure they are fully supported. Additionally, engaging them in the implementation of wellbeing initiatives can prove to be meaningful and have a positive effect.

5. What’s next for staff when the end of furlough is here?

Many employees who are due to return may feel they have enjoyed a lifestyle change and don't necessarily want to go back to their previous way of working. HR managers should engage with staff on furlough to see if there are any issues which can be improved to help ease them back into the workplace.

There are clearly challenges ahead, but there are also opportunities for HR professionals to shape long-lasting and rewarding career paths within the hospitality sector. Now is the time to position their business as an ‘employer of choice’ as organisations continue to build beyond the Covid-19 pandemic.


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Post by Charlotte Ashton

Senior solicitor, ESP Law Ltd

Charlotte has over 10 years’ experience in all aspects of employment law. She trained in-house with a large UK company, covering 45,000 employees, and moved to private practice on qualification. Charlotte enjoys helping growing companies understand their legal obligations and has given training and presentations to start up entrepreneurs, and business students, at a local University. Charlotte also specialises in business immigration law for the UK and has helped employers obtain sponsor licences in order to recruit from outside the UK.