Evidence paper on hospitality sector published

A new report from work and employment expert group ReWAGE calls for a radical overhaul of the hospitality sector to tackle crisis-level staff shortages. 

Recommendations include better pay, terms and conditions for employees (including the enforcement of tipping rights), legislation to reinforce employer duty-of-care responsibilities for workers travelling to and from work, and more flexibility to employ seasonal workers from within the EU and beyond. 

The report was authored by Professor Tom Baum, Department of Work, Employment and Organisation, and Emma Congreve, Fraser of Allander Institute, at Strathclyde Business School, together with Jeisson Cardenas Rubio, University of Warwick, on ‘Work, Wages and Employment in the UK’s Hospitality Sector’. 

As well as reviewing key published indicators, the paper includes new evidence of the challenges faced by employees and their employers in hospitality. 

The hospitality sector in the UK is big business – pre-Covid there were 3.2 million people employed in the industry, which produced £130 billion of economic activity and generated £39 billion in taxation for the UK Government. 

The report considers the challenges currently being faced by the industry, such as the demographic and skills profile of its workforce, levels of pay, workplace conditions, job security, recruitment and retention and skills development, and recommends actions that would make hospitality a more attractive employment prospect and improve conditions for those already working in the sector.   

Professor Tom Baum said, “Evidence points to a number of structural and institutional factors that have not shown significant change over the past 25 years. At the same time, the impact of Covid-19 and its aftermath has exacerbated a number of these issues (such as recruitment and retention) and created conditions where other factors are emerging in a way that the industry and its stakeholders needs to address – such as changing attitudes to work and demand for greater workplace flexibility. 

“The challenge is to identify new ways to address these problems that can be adopted by all stakeholders and offer a sustainable basis for change. What policies and practical measures can a coalition of key stakeholders take to effect real change to employment in the hospitality sector to ensure a prosperous future for the industry and its workforce? 

“Policy has a role to play in effecting change to work and working conditions in hospitality and enabling the private sector to meet its skills requirements. However, a significant responsibility also lies with the private sector, as employers and through competent industry bodies, to drive meaningful change in workplace practices and culture. Policy leadership across a wide range of direct and indirect areas combined with appropriate regulation can support and encourage the hospitality industry down a path of meaningful change.” 

ReWAGE is an independent expert advisory group modelled on SAGE that is co-chaired by the Universities of Warwick and Leeds. IT analyses the latest work and employment research to advise the government on addressing the challenges facing the UK’s productivity and prosperity, such as Covid 19, the cost of living crisis and labour shortages. ReWAGE is primarily funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. 

The work was commissioned and funded by the abrdn Financial Fairness Trust. The report can be found here: https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/ier/rewage/news-archive/employment_in_uk_hospitality_-_evidence_paper_-_formatted.pdf 

You can also read Tom’s blog on the issues here: https://www.sbs.strath.ac.uk/blogs/SBS/  

Published: 2 August 2023

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