Brexit’s impact on hospitality

The UK left the European Union (EU) at midnight on 31 December 2020 triggering changes to the way Brits live their lives now, and in the future.

The biggest change for the UK hospitality industry is around the movement of people. Under new laws, free movement across Europe is no longer permitted, which means that anyone from the EU (except Ireland) who now wants to live or work in the UK will need to qualify under the new immigration points-based system (those who moved to the UK before the end of the transition have until 30 June this year to apply for settled or pre-settled status).

This may not seem like a big deal when many hospitality businesses are shut due to COVID-19 restrictions, but with between an estimated 12-24% of the UK’s hospitality industry made up of European citizens, according to a 2016 report by KPMG, employers may find themselves with a recruitment shortfall when they re-open and start to rebuild their business.

How will Brexit impact the UK hospitality industry?

Brexit’s impact on the UK hospitality industry roughly covers two main areas – people and food – the former being the area we will focus on here.

As previously mentioned, new restrictions for EU citizens wishing to come and live and work in the UK, means that the talent pool from which restaurant, hotel and pub owners can fish from has reduced in size.

Now, unless they were already living and working in the UK before it left the EU, EU citizens will only be able to work here if they have a skilled work visa, and applicants must show they have a job offer from an approved employer sponsor to be able to apply.

The new rules mean it is not impossible for EU citizens to work in restaurants, pubs and hotels in the UK, but the additional red tape and costs involved makes it a much more expensive and time-consuming process for both employers and potential employees.

How can you prepare?

Brexit’s impact on the UK’s hospitality industry can be lessened, however, by making a few fundamental changes to staffing policies and by investing more time and effort into retaining current staff as well as encourage more UK citizens to consider hospitality as a career.

Here are a few ways employers can prepare now to bolster the hospitality workforce post-Brexit.

1. Hold onto existing staff

We know that staff retention has many positive benefits on a hospitality business, but that it is also difficult to achieve. In a survey carried out by Access in February 2020, more than a third – 34% – identified employee churn as a challenge. This figure was a rise of 8% on the previous year and is likely to have been influenced by Brexit.

There is no simple solution to make employees stick around and it will depend on the business and the individuals involved as to what works best, but for hospitality businesses employing existing European staff with settled status, it certainly makes sense to investigate ways that will aid their retention.

2. Widen your recruitment net

Times are changing and so must your recruitment methods and how you view potential candidates. The recruitment pool you had access to pre-Brexit is no longer the same, so go and find another one to cast your net into. Parents looking to return to work, retirees missing the workplace and office workers seeking a change of pace could be your next chefs, restaurant managers or bartenders, so make your recruitment campaigns appeal to these demographics to help make up the shortfall felt by Brexit’s impact on the hospitality workforce.

3. Be flexible

This past year has taught us that the most important thing is safeguarding our health and wellbeing. At the same time, the traditional working environment as many have known it, has been transformed with more people working from home, and those who can’t work from home working in bubbles or being asked to work in shifts. Moving forward, the UK workforce is expected to demand greater flexibility, so this is something employers must consider if they want to make their companies appealing places to work.

4. Back industry initiatives

While it won’t have an immediate impact, supporting industry initiatives that highlight hospitality as a great place to work, such as those run by the charity Springboard, Perceptions and The Hoteliers’ Charter could help turn around future recruitment issues. Adding your voice to and backing these initiatives is a positive step towards improving hospitality’s recruitment woes.

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