Article By: Chris Bray, Sodexo Sport & Leisure UK&I CEO
Indoor dining and hospitality returning marks a huge milestone in the UK’s post-lockdown roadmap but as we make our way towards 21st June, the hospitality industry needs to reinforce its commitment to its people in order to fully reap its rewards.
People should be at the heart of any good business model but it’s now more important than ever for the hospitality industry. According to the latest data from Office for National Statistics (ONS), a staggering 355,000 hospitality jobs were lost during the pandemic.
Alongside this, figures suggest that more than one in 10 UK hospitality workers left the industry last year due to factors such as prolonged furlough, second jobs or career changes brought on by the continued uncertainty and instability of the industry post-pandemic.
It’s also worth noting that prior to the pandemic, European nationals made up almost a third of hospitality workers outside London. The pandemic, coupled with Brexit, means that an estimated quarter of those workers will not return to the industry.
As a result, the number of unfilled roles has recently rocketed. As of April, Caterer.com said that the number of vacancies on its website had grown by more than 85% in just a few weeks, with 22,000 roles now being advertised. Whereas job site Indeed announced that hourly pay for food preparation and service jobs had risen recently in an attempt to attract people to the industry.
For many bars, restaurants and catering companies, this will mean not being able to return to full capacity at a time when consumer demand is at a peak. Following the various lockdown periods, the industry is at a critical point where it’s focussing on financial recovery but people shortages will no doubt impede these plans.
There’s a lot of work to be done to tackle the recruitment gap and, while pay is a good starting point, career progression, training and mental health safeguarding need to be at the forefront of human resources to attract and retain talent. In a post-pandemic landscape, job security and progression are non-negotiables for many workers, especially those in service roles.
Upon returning to work, many employees will have additional pressures to police and enforce safety regulations such as limited time slots, social distancing and group sizes alongside their previous responsibilities, which could exacerbate mental health problems.
With hospitality being hit the hardest, many had to deal with unprecedented financial issues and loneliness during the pandemic, which is why the importance of mental health safeguarding and training cannot be understated. Ultimately, our industry needs the right support for workers, while providing new routes into the industry to effectively bounce back to pre-Covid levels of success.
At Sodexo, we recognise these challenges, which is why our main focus is on recruitment and retention of talent. As one of the largest hospitality employers in the UK, employing around 29,000 people, we were hesitant to make snap decisions at the beginning of the pandemic.
In the face of uncertainty, we took a redeploy-first approach which saw around 45% of our workforce in the Sports & Leisure division work in Covid-19 test centres to support our country’s efforts in the fight against the virus or into other segments of the business. We put our people first and did everything we could to secure stable employment.
Now that our workers are returning to their previous roles, we have a strict and thorough training programme in place to ensure the physical and mental safety of both our team members and the guests that choose to dine with us or visit one of our many cultural destinations.
Alongside this, we have created a number of roles as part of the Government’s Kickstart Scheme, which aims to create new job placements for young people between the ages of 16 – 25 on either Universal Credit or at risk of long-term unemployment.
The road to recovery will no doubt be a long one but if hospitality businesses continue to put the wellbeing of their people first, there will be light at the end of the tunnel. With Government initiatives as well as organisations like UKHospitality to provide additional support, we’re confident that hospitality will soon be back at its peak.
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Hospitality & Catering News: Sodexo CEO: “Wellbeing is the key to bridging hospitality’s recruitment gap”. – 13 June 2021 – Sodexo CEO: “Wellbeing is the key to bridging hospitality’s recruitment gap”.
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