Restaurants and hotels ask UK ministers to ease visa rules for staff
Sign up for myFT Daily Digest to be the first to know about job news.
More than 65 hospitality executives, including The Savoy and Soho House, have warned the UK government the industry is “on the verge of imploding” under pressure from a severe labor shortage as a result. Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic.
Entrepreneur Richard Caring, Chef Yotam Ottolenghi and Sinclair Beecham, co-founder of Pret A Manger, among others, wrote to the Prime Minister and senior conservatives on Tuesday to demand that immigration requirements for hospitality workers be relaxed urgently.
The letter, published in the Financial Times, said it was “essential” that roles such as chefs, bartenders and sommeliers be added to the list of shortage occupations “in order to save the industry under Brexit rules ”.
“So many people have left the industry completely and many restaurants, cafes, bars, etc. just cannot stay afloat with such a small staff,” it read.
Trade body UKHospitality has warned of serious staff shortages in the industry, with vacancy rates at hotel businesses averaging around 10% since they were allowed to fully reopen in July.
Thousands of workers have left the sector or returned to their home countries over the past 18 months, exacerbating long-standing labor supply problems caused by Brexit immigration restrictions.
Despite guest demand surpassing 2019 levels, in many cases hundreds of UK hotel companies have had to limit room and table bookings or close due to lack of staff.
Michael Bonsor, managing director of the Rosewood Hotel in London, said he turned down more than £ 200,000 in business last week due to a shortage of around 80 employees, or a quarter of the workforce. of work. He added that several hotels are already considering stopping bookings for Christmas.
Bonsor said the hotel’s occupancy rate could be 20% higher with more staff. “I can only see it getting worse,” he added.
“Having to limit supply as consumer confidence recovers after Covid is heartbreaking,” said Clio Georgiadis, hospitality manager at Greek restaurant Estiatorio Milos.
The government is not including hospitality jobs on its list of shortage occupations, which offers lower barriers to entry and reduced visa fees for some occupations.
People in shortage positions can in some cases get a visa even if their salary is below £ 25,600, the current threshold. Only people who hold the equivalent of UK A-level qualifications are eligible for work visas under current rules – a barrier to many jobs in the hotel industry.
The government has said the industry should train UK staff, but business owners argue there is no UK workforce to fill the vacancies, especially since labor shortages hit other sectors such as transportation and food processing.
“These are skilled jobs that pay skilled salaries. The problem is not that we cannot compete with other sectors in terms of compensation, but that the staff are not there in the required numbers, ”the letter said.
The Home Office said: “We are closely monitoring the labor supply and working with industry leaders to understand how we can best alleviate particular pinch points.”
“We want employers to invest in the UK domestic workforce for the long term instead of relying on foreign workers,” he said.