UK hospitality hit by severe staff shortages after lockdown, industry chiefs warn

Venues struggle to reopen due to loss of EU workers and ‘furlough hangover’

Adam Forrest
Monday 31 May 2021 17:12
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Coronavirus in numbers

The UK’s hospitality venues are suffering from a “severe” shortage of staff, as industry chiefs warn many businesses are struggling to re-adjust to the lifting of Covid lockdown curbs.

Many pubs, restaurants and nightclubs yet to reopen after the lengthy winter shutdown are desperately seeking staff to take advantage of the surge in demand this summer.

The number of job postings in the UK hospitality sector has shot up by 46 per cent since indoor trading was allowed to resume in England on 17 May, according to the consulting services firm RSM.

Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) said both Brexit and the loss of staff during the long pandemic have left many firms struggling with their reopening plans.

“There are severe staffing shortages,” said Mr Kill. “A lot of workers are from Europe, so Brexit has had an impact, and there is the furlough hangover, where a lot of people have now got other jobs to keep themselves going and are not coming back.”

The NTIA chief executive said up to 60 per cent of security positions were at risk of going unfilled for pubs, bars, nightclubs and festival events this summer.

“With the increase in demand we need to be at more than 100 per cent and we are challenged to find that resource,” said Mr Kill.

The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) said around 2,000 pubs remain shut, but an estimated 25,000 licensed premises across the country are still closed, according to the industry data firm CGA and Alix Partners.

Uncertainty about the 21 June easing of remaining restrictions on social distancing at pubs and restaurants – and the planned reopening of nightclubs – is not helping, industry bosses say.

On Monday, a top scientific adviser to the government urged ministers to delay the end of all lockdown restrictions by “a few weeks” while more data is gathered on the Indian variant.

Professor Ravi Gupta, a member of the Nervtag group, claimed that the “costs and benefits” of getting the timing wrong are “heavily in favour of delay”.

Nine out of 10 nightlife operators fear a delay to the 21 June could put them out of business, having already made financial commitments for a reopening in three weeks.

“Thousands of businesses risk being plunged into further financial hardship by a deviation from the reopening plan,” said Mr Kill.

Nightclubs are currently scheduled to reopen on 21 June

BBPA chief executive Emma McClarkin called on the government to provide as much advanced as possible if restrictions are to remain after 21 June.

Ms McClarkin acknowledged the government was in a “difficult situation” but urged ministers to stick to the planned road map. “21 June is absolutely critical to the recovery of the sector. Recovery day only starts when the restrictions are removed,” she said.

“If the government does leave any lingering restrictions in play then they really need to give us advance notice of that and it needs to talk seriously about financial compensation.”

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