British hospitality chiefs have criticised the Government's introduction of the National Living Wage (NLW) with no industry consultation, giving the sector only 10 months to react to the changes.
Speaking at the British Hospitality Association's (BHA) Hospitality & Tourism summit 2016 yesterday (27 June), BHA chairman Nick Varney said it was "not acceptable" to "drop" this legislation on the fourth biggest industry in the UK. He added: "The Government must talk to us. They haven't been doing that, so we need to shout louder. We need to speak for our industry."
The Government announced plans to introduce the NLW in July 2015, meaning over 25s must be paid £7.20 an hour, rising to a projected £9.35 by 2020. The legislation came into effect in April 2016.
Varney warned of youth unemployment as being a "lurking danger", adding that 30-60% of costs in hospitality and tourism relate to employment.
An official session on national hospitality and tourism employment at the summit was introduced by Sir David Norgrove, chairman of the Low Pay Commission, who opened with a presentation confirming the Low Pay Commission will continue to act in an evidence driven and objective way. He urged the hospitality sector to provide evidence of the impact of the NLW through a survey KPMG has sent out to hospitality businesses.
Bidvest Foodservice chief executive Andrew Selley suggested that the actual cost of the NLW to hospitality and foodservice employers was significantly higher than numbers quoted, and warned of lower quality food being served to children and vulnerable adults as a result.
Chairman and co-owned of Indian restaurant group MW Eat, Ranjit Mathrani, said the hospitality industry "has to be doing all it can to analyse the impact" of the introduction of the NLW.
Of the BHA's agenda to deliver 300,000 new jobs by 2020, BHA CEO Ufi Ibrahim confirmed it is on track with 200,000 jobs created already, and one in three new jobs overall are in the hospitality sector.
Regarding the impact of the EU Referendum last week on employment, proprietor of the St Brides Spa hotel in Saundersfoot Andrew Evans said the hospitality industry needs to be looking at British schools and recruitment in order to ensure hospitality roles are filled and young people in the UK are encouraged into hospitality careers. He said: "If we are going to close those doors [to EU workers] we need to look to our own."
"The important thing is not to panic," added Selley. "There's a whole host of strong hospitality [labour] markets we aren't tapping into," he said, offering the Middle East hospitality workforce as an example.
Latest video from The Caterer