Confusion surrounds the approach to foreign workers in the wake of the Brexit vote after a series of contradictory statements on the issue from government ministers.
Speaking at the Conservative Party conference last week, home secretary Amber Rudd (pictured) said that hospitality businesses could effectively be named and ‘shamed' for prioritising foreign workers over nationals, under new plans to require companies to reveal the number of foreign staff they employ.
But the plans have since been watered down, with ministers claiming that numbers would still be compiled, though not published.
The rights of foreign workers is set to be a key bargaining chip in Brexit negotiations, with international trade secretary Liam Fox saying EU nationals living in the UK were "one of our main cards".
Meanwhile, Rudd said the government would be "examining whether we should tighten the test companies have to take before recruiting from abroad" and that she aimed to reduce net migration from 327,000 a year to less than 100,000.
The proposals will be of concern to hospitality businesses, many of whom rely on a high proportion of foreign workers.
British Hospitality Association chief executive Ufi Ibrahim said: "Ours is a growing and labour-intensive industry, supporting 4.5 million jobs. The 15% of our workforce who come from the EU make a vital contribution. We will continue to invest in recruiting young British workers into our industry but there simply aren't enough of them to fill all the job vacancies at the moment."
Beppo Buchanan-Smith, owner of the Isle of Eriska hotel in Benderloch, Oban, said the falling pound meant the UK would be less attractive to those looking to send money home and that the country should embrace those who choose to stay and contribute to the economy.
He added: "To vilify employers who simply want to employ the best workforce for their business is simply wrong and it is quite correct of our first minister Nicola Sturgeon to stand up for us north of the border and support our stance.
"When I thought Brexit would mean less red tape and a freer market economy, it seems once again I have been misled by politicians."
Ibérica managing director Marcos Fernandez Pardo said that although the restaurant group sought to employ and train local talent, it wasn't always possible.
"There are not that many British CVs that come through," he said. "We find it extremely difficult, something which greatly intensifies in London. We really don't get many applications. I think a proper analysis is needed before hasty measures are put in place that will greatly damage the sector."
The news comes as new research has found that the hospitality sector is facing a staffing crisis, with nearly three-quarters of hospitality employers struggling to recruit staff.
The survey by The Caterer, carried out in partnership with temporary staffing specialist Lola Staffing in August 2016, showed a sharp 12 percentage point rise in the number of employers who said it was "very difficult" to recruit hospitality staff at their company.
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