Hospitality sector leaders are calling for relaxations in migrant visa requirements to help plug a critical shortage of workers in the sector.
This week, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported a record high of 953,000 job vacancies in the UK in May to July 2021 as demand for labour increased following the easing of coronavirus restrictions.
The largest increase in vacancy levels was seen in accommodation and foodservice, which grew by 73,000, up 163.7% on the previous quarter and almost 40% above its pre-pandemic peak.
Amid the scrabble to secure staff, the Scottish Hospitality Group (SHG) is calling on the UK government and governments of the devolved nations to introduce a migrant visa scheme to ensure employers have access to workers.
“Operators can’t get staff, wage inflation is rampant and all the supply chain problems are combining to act as a brake on our economic recovery,” said SHG spokesman Stephen Montgomery. “We should expect to see more people looking for work once furlough ends but it will be too little, too late. The reality is that we need temporary one or two-year visas for EU workers to make sure all businesses can recruit the right talent.”
The impact of Brexit combined with the so-called ‘pingdemic’ has created a perfect storm for labour shortages in the out of home sector with large numbers of EU workers having returned home during the pandemic and many staff currently working in the sector being forced to self-isolate.
New immigration rules make it challenging to recruit EU nationals for roles in pubs, restaurants and other hospitality settings.
Businesses are also facing problems with food supplies due to shortages of labour on farms, in factories and in transport and distribution. Nando’s was forced to close several restaurants this week as it ran short of supplies of peri peri chicken.
UKHospitality, the British Beer and Pub Association and the British Institute of Innkeeping have all recently warned of concerns around staffing following a July survey of over 350 businesses which found 100% had vacancies; mainly front-of-house (84%), non-head chefs (67%) and kitchen porters (36%).