The Scottish Hospitality Group has warned that the end of furlough in five weeks will not fully address the staffing crisis facing hospitality and many other sectors and has urged Westminster to work with the three devolved nations and introduce a migrant visa scheme to provide employers with access to workers.
The group said the lack of recruits is preventing businesses from opening to capacity and beginning the long process of lockdown recovery. One of its members employs around 500 staff but is recruiting for at least another 100. In the meantime, venues are having to shut early or restrict their numbers, crippling the sector's ability to reclaim lost revenue over two summers and one Christmas.
Stephen Montgomery, SHG spokesperson, said: "Operators can't get staff, wage inflation is rampant and all the supply chain problems are combining to act as a brake on our economic recovery. We should expect to see more people looking for work once furlough ends but it will be too little, too late. The reality is that we need temporary one- or two-year visas for EU workers to make sure all businesses can recruit the right talent.
"Furlough has done its job and needs to end, but we still need help as we head into winter. There's a real lack of confidence because hospitality has been the first to close and last to reopen, and people quite rightly don't want to be responsible for implementing government rules that don't make any sense. So that's had the effect of pointing people towards other sectors."
Nic Wood, owner of Signature Group, which operates 21 venues mostly in Edinburgh and Glasgow, added: "It is incredibly frustrating that after all we've been through that we can't get enough staff to open up our venues to their full capacity or hours. The issues of furlough, lack of staff and supply chain complications are jeopardising hospitality's ability to try and scrabble back to pre-Covid trade levels. We need a visa scheme to plug the employment void that has appeared since Brexit. It's imperative that the four nations work together to encourage people into the country that want to do these jobs so that the economy has enough staff to get back to pre-Covid levels."