Over 93,000 EU workers left the UK’s hospitality sector in the last year, as a new report from Caterer.com reveals a shift in the industry’s workforce since the pandemic and Brexit.
The first quarterly Caterer.com Hospitality Hiring Insider, which analysed thousands of vacancies and applications as well as gathering the views of 250 hospitality employers and 2,0000 consumers, highlights how the industry has adapted and boosted company benefits to attract different talent after a steep rise in available jobs since the reopening of the sector.
Vacancies on Caterer.com have grown by 342% since the re-opening of hospitality as employers rushed to rebuild their teams for reopening and this need has continued to climb with over 28,179 roles currently available on the site.
A shifting workforce
The hospitality sector has long relied on overseas nationals, however the new research from Caterer.com finds that the percentage of EU workers in the industry has decreased, with a net loss of at least 92,800 workers nationally. Some areas are likely to be particularly affected by this loss, with reports suggesting that the percentage of EU workers pre pandemic was as high as 75% in London.
As the industry adapts to attract new talent, 60% of hospitality employers say they are now getting more applications from UK workers than ever before. In reverse of last year when many workers took on temporary jobs in other sectors during forced closures, 67% of employers are seeing staff who left the hospitality industry during lockdown, now return from other sectors and over half (56%) have hired new staff from other sectors in the last three months.
Tackling misconceptions about the industry
Research amongst consumers shows how many common misconceptions people hold about the industry, highlighting the need for the sector to showcase the valuable employment opportunities and benefits it offers. Half of people in the UK (50%) believe hospitality wages are low and 17% consider hospitality jobs as only temporary before people move into another profession. Despite these views, the survey has found that 90% of hospitality employers pay above the living wage and, in response to shifting demands from the labour market, 58% of hospitality employers have increased their benefits package in the last year. Other pay and work-life benefits currently offered by the vast majority of hospitality employers include bonuses (80%), personal development programmes (81%), flexible shift patterns (83%) and free meals (77%).
Gavin Smith, Director at Pizza Pilgrims added: “There has certainly been a downturn in EU applicants over the last year and we have noticed a shift to recruiting more UK nationals.
“We have a wonderful industry that offers the opportunity to build a career and it’s important that we are elevating this message as a collective industry. There is a poor perception of the industry with old stories of hard work, long hours and poor working behaviours, alongside the view that the industry is not a career but a stepping stone while people explore what they want to do. At Pizza Pilgrims we don’t buy this, and we have an Academy to change this, supporting recruitment, training, education and inspiring our team members.”
Kathy Dyball, Director at Caterer.com commented: “It’s encouraging to see more UK workers entering the industry as people see the valuable, long-term employment opportunities hospitality can offer. However, talented EU workers remain an essential part of the sector’s success and we join the industry in calling for the government to urgently make it easier for hospitality talent to return to the UK.
“The staff shortages the sector has been grappling with have only been exacerbated by recent ‘pingdemic’ and staff being taken out of work at no notice. Yet again this is a case of the sector needing more attention from the government to be able to trade profitably. In the longer-term there is work to be done to change perceptions of the industry. Its reputation has suffered due to lockdowns, with job uncertainty added to the list of misconceptions such as low pay and lack of flexibility. Working together as an industry to address these will be paramount to develop future talent pipelines.”
While the hospitality sector will undoubtably play an important role in tackling unemployment in the UK, Caterer.com joins the sector in calling on government to relax immigration rules and widen the talent pool. 64% of employers are concerned that EU workers who left the UK during Covid will not return and a recent report from UKHospitality found that 66% of the sector call for short-term visas for overseas workers. 22% call for travel restrictions to be lifted completely.
 342% comparing July 2021 to March 2021