The Government has said it has "no plan" to introduce a hospitality worker visa scheme despite a petition which has gained nearly 17,000 signatures.
The petition, started by Thiago Luz Togni (general manager of Temper Shoreditch in London), called for the creation of a visa like the seasonal worker visa for horticulture workers, to allow EU nationals to come to the UK to work in hospitality for up to two years. Speaking to The Caterer, he said that the system was unfair to smaller businesses who may be unable to pay higher salaries.
As the petition gained more than 10,000 signatures, the government had to respond to it. In its response, the Home Office said there were no plans to introduce a visa route for recruitment "at or near the minimum wage with relatively short training" and that businesses "should invest in and develop the UK's domestic labour force".
The statement said: "We recognise the ending of free movement is a significant change for businesses. The Government believes immigration must be considered alongside investment in, and development of, the UK's domestic labour force, rather than as an alternative to it. This includes areas, like those in the hospitality industry, where training requirements are relatively short and should be easily accessed by the resident population. It is also worth noting similar recruitment issues for hospitality businesses are being reported in countries within the European Union, further indicating immigration is not the go-to solution for them.
"Enquiries on how best to address recruitment issues and/or take advantage of the skills system to grow the workforce should in the first instance be directed to the Department of Work and Pensions and the Department for Education, as the Departments dealing with employment and skills respectively. We continue to support industries to achieve sustainable solutions to labour shortages through making roles more attractive to UK workers, with better pay and working conditions."
The response also highlighted that more than 6.5 million people have applied to the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) and can continue to live and work in the UK. Although the deadline for the EUSS has passed, those with reasonable grounds for missing it can still apply. Those with settled status who have left the UK can return within five years, and those with pre-settled status can return within two years.
"Our Plan for Jobs is therefore focused on helping people across the country retrain, build new skills and get back into work, rather than providing alternatives to this via immigration policy," concluded the statement.
The petition will run until February 2023. If it gains 100,000 signatures, it will be considered for debate in Parliament.
The UK hospitality industry has lost 200,000 international workers since 2019, with as many as 120,000 European workers estimated to have left the sector. In recent months, some operators have turned to hiring overseas staff to combat rising staff shortages.