New research has revealed that just over half of agency workers aren't interested in working in hospitality full-time, a worrying finding for a sector that needs almost a million new staff by 2022. Elly Earls reports.
Agency work can be a great route into a long-term hospitality career, as well as an effective way for employers to recruit full-time staff. Yet the majority of agency workers don't see the hospitality industry as a viable career choice, according to new research carried out by The Caterer in partnership with temporary staffing specialist LOLA Staffing, which found that poor treatment and uncompetitive pay could be significant issues in hospitality recruitment.
Only 15% of agency workers say working in hospitality is their chosen career, while just over half aren't interested in working in the hospitality industry full-time. These are two of the findings from exclusive online research conducted by The Caterer and LOLA Staffing, which surveyed a total of 224 people, roughly split between agency workers and employers, to find out how they feel about the employment market today.
"The attractiveness of the hospitality jobs market has been decreasing over the years and we feel like it has reached its all-time low now," comments LOLA Staffing's managing director Duncan Mitchell. "Fair pay and treatment were two factors highlighted by staff respondents as most valued, yet those factors don't score very highly in the hospitality sector. We believe this is why many young people who are just entering the jobs market don't consider hospitality as their best option."
Considering the importance of the hospitality industry to the UK's economy and the number of new staff that will be required over the next few years, this is a worrying state of affairs. Today, British hospitality is the UK's sixth largest contributor to export earnings and its fourth largest employer, providing work for 3 million people -or 10% of the workforce - across over 180,000 businesses. And according to People 1st, 993,000 new staff will be needed by 2022.
Individual employment charities like Springboard are also working hard to encourage people of all ages and backgrounds to consider a career within the hospitality, leisure and tourism industry by providing free specialist advice and guidance, as well as working closely with many different industry establishments and suppliers to help attract talent.
Yet, according to Mitchell, there is also a need for a significant shift in culture within hospitality companies themselves, if workers are to feel valued and therefore willing to stay in the industry. And this would need to start with better treatment of staff.
"Certain behaviours that are considered quite common in the hospitality, are something that today's Millennials are less and less inclined to put up with," Mitchell notes.
"We were very surprised to hear from the employers themselves how frequent the mistreatment of staff is amongst their peers."
For example, 66% of employers admitted they were aware of their staff being a witness or a victim of rudeness, 53% witnessed shouting and over a quarter intimidation, according to The Caterer ‘s survey. But at the same time, 97% of individual respondents said they treat their staff well or very well.
"Those figures are frankly shocking," Mitchell says. "There is an acknowledgement from the employers that mistreatment of staff happens. Now that the industry admitted that the problem exists, everyone needs to take a critical and honest look at their own operations. Hospitality workers must feel safe and respected at work, and the
employers need to provide such an environment for them. Otherwise our struggles with staff recruitment and retention will persist."
While 91% of employers surveyed consider the pay they offer to their agency staff as average (50%) or above average (41%), Mitchell also warned that it may not be enough to make the sector attractive, remarking that hospitality companies are competing for staff with the likes of Lidl or Aldi, which pay £8.25-9.50p/h and 8.40-10p/h respectively.
"Many five star hotels can't match what Lidl pays in London, and many workers understandably choose retail where they're working more social hours at a higher pay rate. We're certain that the lack of competitive pay negatively affects our ability to attract and retain staff in the hospitality market," he said.
For agency workers' part, one of the survey's key findings was that they feel there is a clear discrepancy between the way they are treated and the treatment of full-time employees, with 63% saying they didn't think they were treated as well. However, again, the overwhelming majority of employers (92%) said they treat full-time and agency staff the same.
For Mitchell, these results didn't come as a surprise. "Employers invest a lot of their time and resources to train and professionally develop their full time employees. By doing so, they increase the employee's value to the business over time and build loyalty - something they don't feel is possible to achieve with an agency worker. Perhaps this is why they treat their full time staff better," he remarks.
Yet, on the other hand, 54% of surveyed employers have hired an agency worker full-time in their company, something LOLA often encourages with its long-term clients.
"We have let many of our long-term clients hire our agency workers full time with huge success. Employers had the opportunity to see a staff member at work plenty of times before offering them work, so there were no surprises afterwards," Mitchell explains.
"Even if hiring agency staff full time is not the employer's intention, it 'pays off' to treat the agency staff well, as it makes them choose your venue over the others hence staff consistency can be achieved. Being able to create a pool of regular staff is something we find many employers value very highly, and it can't be achieved if staff don't feel compelled to come back."
Another topic covered in the employment survey was the new National Living Wage (NLW), which was announced by Chancellor George Osborne last summer and will see the introduction from 1 April of a minimum wage of £7.20 an hour for workers aged over 25 who aren't in the first year of an apprenticeship, self-employed or volunteers.
There had been speculation that the move, which will eventually see the NLW rise to £9 per hour by 2020, could tempt businesses in the hospitality sector to hire more younger workers to avoid the added cost, and it appears that a significant minority of the sector's employers plan to do just that. 22.5% of those surveyed by The Caterer said that they did expect to hire more people under the age of 25 to compensate for the NLW's introduction.
LOLA Staffing, however, will not let the new NLW impact its recruitment policies. "First and foremost, we believe that it is only fair that a 20-year-old waiter and a 25-year-old one doing the same job are paid at the same rate. It is hard to retain good hospitality workers. Giving over 25s less hours of work would only make the situation worse," Mitchell stresses. "It is not an option for us. We won't be offering a product to our clients that allows them to choose staff based on age."
Finally, survey respondents were asked whether Britain's potential exit from the European Union (EU) would make it easier or harder to recruit staff - either temporary or permanent - to their businesses. A clear majority of 51% said that it would be harder to recruit, while 30% said it would be about the same. Only 5% said it would be easier and a total of 13% said it was not applicable.
Commenting on this finding, Mitchell says: "We are strong believers in the net positive effect of migration from the EU and as a result support a unified Union. New regulations regarding freedom of movement between the UK and member states of the EU after the potential Brexit haven't been established yet. There is a chance that Britain will leave its borders open to the EU migrants in exchange for access to the open market.
"Should this not be the case and EU immigration is restricted, we agree with the majority of the employers - it will be harder to recruit hospitality staff. It is a very labour-intensive market."
LOLA Staffing is a London-based temporary staffing agency, providing hospitality staff, promotional staff and crew to our industry. Since 2007 thousands of caterers, hotels, event companies and restaurants trusted LOLA with their staffing requirements. Emailinfo@lolaevents.co.ukto request testimonials and discuss LOLA's competitive rates.
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