Hospitality workforce shortage creating ‘serious crisis’ as Tory MP admits UK needs more EU workers

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Hospitality workforce shortage creating ‘serious crisis’ as Tory MP George Eustice admits UK needs more EU workers

Related tags Recruitment Hospitality Jobs Staff Training ukhospitality Shortage Occupation List

Hospitality businesses fear they will struggle to cope over the summer holiday season, amid a warning that ongoing staffing struggles are creating a ‘serious crisis’ within the sector.

Stephen Montgomery, chair of the Scottish Hospitality Group, told the BBC​ he was ‘anxious to a degree’ about the summer and fears he may have to cut down his opening hours amid struggles with recruitment at his restaurant Our Place in Annan, near Lockerbie.

“Just as we were trying to take the business from five to seven days a week, bang we lost two members of staff, both front of house,” he said.

“If I have to close to make sure my staff aren't burned out, I will. Why risk losing more staff for financial gain?”

According to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published earlier this year, the level of vacancies across the sector is still 48% higher than pre-Covid levels.

An ONS update is due on Tuesday (11 July), the BBC ​reports, but it said available roles fell by 22% over the last year, standing at 132,000 in May.

“The workforce shortage is creating a serious crisis as we head deeper into the peak summer season,” said Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality.

“Nearly half of businesses are reducing trading hours per day, and a third are having to close on some days each week.”

This latest warning from the sector comes as former Tory environment secretary George Eustice called on ministers to reopen the UK’s borders to tens of thousands of young workers from EU nations in order to tackle acute post-Brexit labour shortages.

Speaking to The Observer​, Eustice, a leading Brexiter within the Conservative party, said the Government should begin bilateral negotiations with EU nations immediately, with a view to offering young Europeans under 35 the right to two-year visas to work in this country.

“The flaws in our current so-called skills-based immigration system are becoming clearer by the day because we have got a policy that does not correspond to the needs of our economy,” he said.

Voices within the hospitality sector have long been calling for changes to the shortage occupation list, which makes it easier for businesses to recruit people from abroad in sectors deemed to have a short supply of domestic workers.

Earlier this year there were been suggestions that chefs and restaurant and hotel manager roles were set to be added to the list​​​​, but it never came to pass​​​​​.

Last month, UKHospitality reiterated calls for chefs to be added to the UK’s shortage occupation list​ in evidence submitted to the Migration Advisory Committee.

“The Shortage Occupation List is a critical part of that and adding chefs to the list is a simple move that can have enormous benefits,” Nicholls said at the time.

“In our evidence submitted to the MAC, we highlighted how a quarter of members told us they would restrict their trading hours if this level of chef vacancies continued. This is likely to be on top of cutbacks many businesses have already been forced to make.”

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