When the UK left the European Union at 11pm on Friday 31 January, a lot of the hospitality industry’s concerns were finally realised. Although there’s still an 11-month ‘transition period’ before we make the final break from the EU at the end of the year, which means it’s still impossible to predict the full impact Brexit will have, it’s time to think strategically about staff recruitment so that our hospitality businesses and workplaces are prepared for the challenges ahead.
Post-Brexit immigration rules and salary thresholds have been a hot topic since 23 June 2016, when the people of the UK voted to leave the EU. Because a large number of hospitality workers were born outside the UK, are considered to be unskilled (although obviously we disagree) and are generally earning far less than the £30,000 salary threshold the Government intended to impose, there have been huge concerns about staff shortages affecting the future of our industry. Some people consider this to be particularly ironic since the Tourism Sector Deal, which the hospitality industry developed in collaboration with the Government and was only announced at the end of June 2019, has committed to building 130,000 new hotel rooms by 2025, in order to welcome an extra nine million visitors a year. At the time the deal was made public, then-Prime Minister Theresa May declared, “As one of the most visited countries in the world, the UK is a world leader in international tourism and it is crucial that we remain globally competitive to meet growing demands… this deal recognises the important role tourism plays, and will continue to play, in showcasing what our great country has to offer.”1
The UK hotel, restaurant, leisure and entertainment industries currently employ over 400,000 migrant workers, leading to fears that there will be a major recruitment crisis for the hospitality industry post-Brexit. The British Hospitality Association says that, if the industry is going to maintain and grow, it requires upwards of 60,000 workers per year, in addition to the ongoing recruitment of 200,000 more. But the trade body UKHospitality claims that up to 90% of industry roles wouldn’t meet the proposed salary threshold for overseas workers. Keith Barr, CEO of InterContinental Hotels Group, commented, “The hospitality and tourism industry is a global success story, responsible for one in 10 jobs worldwide and four million jobs here in the UK… It is vital that the UK continues to demonstrate the openness which has helped it become such a global hub and attract a diverse international workforce that plays a key role in driving the economy. A thoughtful, pragmatic approach is required to avoid a damaging shortage of skills, labour and the rich cultural mix that makes our industry, and the UK, so special.”2
On the tentatively glass-half-full side, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that the anticipated salary threshold will now be reduced to £25,600. This change of thinking has been largely attributed to the independent migration advisory committee (MAC)’s recommendation that an Australian points-based system wouldn’t be appropriate for the UK. Although an Australian points-based system was one of the six key guarantees in the Conservative election manifesto, MAC believes a mixed system would be more appropriate: a minimum salary threshold for those people coming to the UK with a job offer, and a points-based system for skilled workers coming to the UK without an arranged job. MAC’s report also recommends that, for young people under 26 years of age, the general and occupation-specific thresholds should be 30% lower than the thresholds for experienced workers. In some occupations, this means young workers would only need to earn £17,920 p.a.3
Professor Alan Manning, MAC’s chairman, said, “No perfect system exists and there are unavoidable, difficult trade-offs. The largest impacts will be in low-wage sectors and the Government needs to be clear about its plans for lower-skilled work migration.”
UKHospitality have already asked the Government to ensure that ‘sector-specific shortages’ will be addressed. Their chief executive Kate Nicholls comments, “The low-skilled temporary visa route into work can work for our sector, as the majority of migrants in hospitality do not work in highly-paid roles… A continuing route for these incredibly valuable workers is paramount, particularly as hospitality has had the highest proportionate number of vacancies for the past 18 years. Currently, it runs at 4.0 vacancies per 100 jobs, compared to a figure of 2.6 for the wider economy… A helpful step forward would be to extend the Youth Mobility Scheme to EU countries and make this a vital part of future trade deals with other countries, thereby providing another route for young workers into the sector.”4
For everybody working within the hospitality industry, the next few months are going to be an anxious time. However, when you work with Prime Agency Recruitment, finding and recruiting the perfect team members for your business isn’t something you should worry about. Here, at Prime, we’re entirely prepared for the challenges ahead. With our extensive database of first-class candidates and temporary staff, plus the fact that we interview and retain new cream-of-the-crop applicants on a daily basis, we’ll always have the best workers available whenever you need them. If there is a recruitment pressure created by Brexit, we can assure you that your business won’t feel it. Instead, we want you to concentrate on everything else you’ll need to do to make your business successful in a post-Brexit world, while we concentrate on providing the people who’ll make your success a reality. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to give our expert team a call on 020 7580 4398 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.