UK hospitality sector faces labour crunch
London – 14 September 2017 –
A steady stream of continental Europeans who for years have taken up hundreds of thousands of positions in the hospitality business and other industries has started to dry up after the UK’s Brexit vote, according to a Reuters report.
It says business is booming for Paul Murphy’s recruitment agency in northwest England. Clients are rolling in with more jobs in restaurants, bars and hotels than ever before, but finding workers to fill them has become tricky.
“It’s definitely getting worse. The lead time to fill a chef vacancy at the moment could be anything between two and six months,” said Murphy of the Knight Benton Recruitment agency.
By contrast finding a chef last year would take two months at most, he told Reuters.
Citizens of the remaining European Union states – from Italians and Spanish to Poles and Romanians – face losing their automatic right to live in Britain when it leaves the bloc in March 2019. Murphy believes the government must produce an alternative immigration regime that ensures employers get the workers they need.
The hospitality sector, like farming and construction, has relied heavily on Europeans, and particularly on people from the poorer ex-communist states which began joining the EU in 2003.
Citizens of other EU countries could make up as much as a quarter of the 3 million workers in hospitality, according to a KPMG report based on a survey of British Hospitality Association members. That includes 75 percent of waiting staff, 37 percent of housekeepers and 25 percent of chefs.
Last June’s referendum has affected both the supply of labour and demand for it. European workers are starting to leave Britain or having second thoughts about coming in the first place, worried about their uncertain status after Brexit.
On top of this, the pound has fallen more than 15 percent against the euro and about 21 percent against the Polish zloty since the referendum. That means Europeans’ sterling pay does not stretch nearly so far when they send money home, encouraging them to seek work elsewhere.
But Murphy’s clients need more staff as the weak pound has encouraged many Britons to holiday at home and attracted growing numbers of foreign visitors to places like the Lake District.