We need to discuss hospitality pay rates and working hours

09 July 2010
We need to discuss hospitality pay rates and working hours

Last week I was listening to a radio programme in which the guest was complaining about the difficulties young people have in finding jobs these days, adding the obligatory call for the Government to "do more" to help. Today nearly 18% of youths are unemployed and the number claiming benefits has risen considerably.

That same day a quick glance at a job website revealed over 10,000 live job advertisements in our industry. What on earth is going on? Why isn't there a stampede for every precious vacancy in hospitality?

I fear the answer may in part be the common perception that working in this trade means long hours and low wages. Pay rates are, if you like, the elephant in the room; the thing nobody wants to talk about. And indeed at starting levels we do have thousands working hard on the minimum hourly rate.

Is it any wonder that teachers and parents often see the hotel and catering trade as a last resort, rather than a first choice of career? Catering is, by its nature, labour-intensive so payroll represents a bigger slice of total outgoings than in many other trades. Combine that with the pressure to compete on price and it's easy to see the problem from an employer's point of view.

Take a closer look at the actual career paths of the most able and enthusiastic staff, however, and you see a much brighter picture. Promotion to more senior positions can happen very rapidly. In my own case I went from trainee waiter to general manager in just four years. My progress continued in related jobs for years afterwards, although I seem to have hit a cul-de-sac at present, but the point is that opportunities for development and the chance to acquire skills make this a brilliant industry to work in once you get past the entry stage.

Organisations like Springboard do a great job in promoting hospitality and tourism as a good place to work, as do countless individual operators. The elephant won't go away, so let's not be afraid to acknowledge its presence.

The hours are long and pay is low at starting level, but promotion can happpen very rapidly in hospitality

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