Raymond Blanc's Brasserie Bar Co has announced that it will pay for its 591 non-British EU employees to apply for settled status after Brexit, with the chef saying it is important for the business to protect its "family".
Blanc, founder and director of the 36-strong group behind Brasserie Blanc and the White Brasserie Company, said: "Being a Frenchman and a UK resident for the past 35 years, this issue is very close to my heart. With the continued uncertainty over the nightmare that is Brexit, the hospitality industry is facing a staffing crisis. Pre-Brexit, there was a shortage of young people entering the industry. Britain's decision to leave the EU has resulted in a huge decline in the number of people applying for hospitality jobs.
"Our 1,200-strong team is integral to the success of our business and by granting them settled status, we will be protecting ‘our family' and providing them with much needed security. We are sending out a clear message that they are welcome and wanted."
There is currently no government-led financial incentive in place to support businesses looking to cover the stipend for employees - adding yet another potential cost to a sector already squeezed by employment costs, rates and rents.
Industry body UKHospitality's chief Kate Nicholls said: "Opting to assist with this cost is a choice for individual operators but making any such payment tax deductible for the company and a non-taxable expense for the employee would be a very welcome incentive to do so.
"When employment costs represent a considerable proportion record level operating costs in hospitality, any extra expense will only further squeeze already tight margins."
Under the EU Settlement Scheme, all EU citizens living in the UK will need to apply for the right to remain in the UK after Brexit. The application fee is £65.