Proportion of EU workers in hospitality sector at lowest level since 2016

26 July 2021 by
Proportion of EU workers in hospitality sector at lowest level since 2016

The proportion of workers in the hospitality sector from the European Union is at its lowest level since software provider Fourth began recording in 2016.

Meanwhile, the proportion of British workers in hospitality has risen substantially over the past two and a half years, highlighting an ongoing shift within the sector's labour market, accelerated by disruption caused by Covid-19, concerns over job security and immigration policy.

The data reveals that the proportion of EU workers has been consistently declining since the UK formally left the EU in January 2020.

In that time, the proportion of EU workers in the sector has dropped from 43% in January 2020 to 37% in June 2021. This has been offset by a steady increase in British nationals, rising from 46% in January 2020 to 51% in June 2021 – taking the figure over that threshold for the first time. The proportion of workers from non-EU countries has remained relatively steady, increasing slightly from 11% in January 2020 to 12% in June 2021.

This trend is also recognised across back-of-house and front-of-house roles in June, with British workers accounting for 32% of back-of-house roles and 55% of front-of-house roles, the highest proportion seen since Fourth started recording this data. Conversely, workers from EU nations recorded the lowest proportional figures on record in the month, accounting for 52% of back-of-house roles and 36% of front-of-house roles. This showed that most back-of-house jobs, such as chefs and kitchen porters, are still held by EU workers, but that number is decreasing.

The same could be said for new starters in the sector, with British workers leading the way. Over the course of June, they accounted for 63% of all new hires across the sector, again the highest figure on record, while EU nationals made up just 28% of new hires – a significant reduction since January 2019 (50% of new starters). Workers from non-EU nations made up 10% of new hires, a figure that has remained relatively steady since 2019.

Sebastien Sepierre, managing director – EMEA, Fourth, said: "A potent combination of Britain's departure from the EU and the devastating impact of the pandemic continues to significantly shake-up the sector's labour market. The much-publicised staffing crisis is proving hugely challenging for operators, as a consequence of a clear shrinking of the labour pool, in back-of-house roles in particular. It remains unclear how long this disruption might last and how it will be resolved in the months ahead during the long road to recovery.

"It will be interesting to see how trading models which evolved during the pandemic, such as reliance on table service, digital ordering and development of new sales channels, will impact labour scheduling and the workforce in the future. Now that restrictions have been lifted in England and consumers can order from the bar once more, operators will need to find solutions that allow them to provide a great guest experience in tandem with maximising efficiency."

The total sector headcount for the month month was still down 13% compared to July 2020, and down 23% compared to July 2019, while the total headcount for the second quarter of 2021 (April to June) was down 25% compared to the same period in 2020.

According to Fourth's data, 45% of payroll staff remained on full or flexi-furlough, the smallest proportion of workers since the scheme was introduced.

Fourth's data also found the pub sector appeared to be the most resilient, with its headcount down 7% this month compared to July 2020, followed by hotels (13% down), restaurants (14% down) and QSRs (15% down).

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