Test & Trace exacerbating hospitality's staffing shortage

21 June 2021 by
Test & Trace exacerbating hospitality's staffing shortage

The hospitality sector's struggles with finding staff are being further exacerbated by Test & Trace.

The system forces staff into self-isolation for up to 10 days, should they have come into contact with someone who tests positive for the virus, potentially wiping out entire teams at a time and closing venues.

However, health secretary Matt Hancock has said that a scheme is being piloted to allow people who have had both jabs to undergo a testing programme rather than self-isolate.

He told the BBC: "We're piloting that now to check that it will be effective and it is something we're working on. We're not ready to be able to take that step yet, but it's something that I want to see and we will introduce, subject to clinical advice, as soon as it's reasonable to do so.

"I want to replace these interventions [self-isolating] with the vaccine as the thing that will keep us safe, and we're making very good progress towards that."

Ben Harper, group managing director of Watergate Bay in Cornwall; Another Place, the Lake in Ullswater, Cumbria; and Beach Retreats, hopes this will change before 19 July as up to 20 of his team members at a time are having to isolate, despite testing negative. As a result, the venue is having to consolidate some of its food and beverage offering.

"For a business like us, the need to isolate as a result of an instruction from Test & Trace can wipe out whole teams in one go. It's a really new challenge," he said.

"I think there is a slight disconnect with the pace of the vaccination programme and the need for a certain cohort – ie the more mature who are perhaps double vaccinated – to isolate for 10 days, even if they have had a negative PCR test. A more pragmatic approach to this would really help us."

He added: "It's making a very, very difficult business even more difficult and, without some action, there are lots of businesses who could be operating profitably and well who may have to close simply because they can't remain operational.

"We're doing well as we always do to keep our businesses open and deliver our brand experience – I am absolutely determined to continue with that, but there are plenty around us who aren't."

Cornwall was particularly hard hit following a busy half-term week with Lewinnick Lodge in Newquay forced to temporarily close its restaurant and bar for precautionary measures, as did the town's Cove24 restaurant and bar. Daffodil Mulligan in London's Old Street had to close until 22 June as a member of its team was advised to self-isolate by NHS Test & Trace, as did London's Clove Club after a chef tested positive.

Michelin-starred Pied à Terre in Fitzrovia, meanwhile, has become the latest hospitality venue to pause lunch service due to recruitment problems. From 26 June the restaurant will be open for dinner service only, which the restaurant said was "to protect the welfare of the team and maintain the high standards of food and service the restaurant is renowned for".

The two-Michelin-starred Le Gavroche in Mayfair was forced to cancel lunch service for the foreseeable future earlier this month.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, said that any measures that exempt fully vaccinated people from the requirement to isolate for 10 days would be "hugely beneficial" for the sector and that changes to the rules that result in more people being available to work would be welcome.

Photo: Prostock-studio/Shutterstock.com

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