Hospitality businesses in Yorkshire 'turning down' some bookings due to 'massive recruitment issue'

Hotels, restaurants and other hospitality businesses in Yorkshire are being held back from meeting a surge in demand after lockdown restrictions were eased because there is a “massive recruitment issue”.

Hospitality businesses across Yorkshire are struggling to hire enough staff to meet a surge in demand

Owners say they are struggling to fill a range of vacancies, as some staff decided to take on other jobs or retrain for a new career when they were furloughed over the last 15 months and many of the European workers who decided to go home have not returned.

The immigration system introduced after Brexit, which aims to attract highly-skilled applicants, is also said to be having an impact.

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Simon Cotton Managing Director of HRH Group which operates hotels and restaurants in North Yorkshire, said they have seen “record levels of business” since May 17, but are forced to turn down some bookings because of a staff shortage.

He said there are vacancies in “pretty much all positions”, including chefs, housekeepers and waiters, as people look for a different career where they can work more social hours and command more respect.

“I’ve been in the business 30-odd years and I’ve argued that people don’t respect hospitality work for the professional that it is,” he said.

“I think some people just saying: ‘you know what, I don’t need that for the money that is being paid for the hours that are expected’.”

He added: "We are now reviewing our staff wages and our wage bill is definitely increasing fairly considerably."

He said there is a “massive recruitment issue” which is frustrating businesses which “want to seize the opportunity being presented by staycations” as holidaymakers look to remain in the UK because of the travel restrictions.

Wayne Topley, Managing Director of Cedar Court Hotels, has seen employees leave to become couriers or work at hospitals and care homes and he believes employers in the tourism industry will have to adapt to fill the vacancies.

“We are reviewing salaries, in line with the market expectation and the market expectation is changing - there’s no question,” he said.

“It’s not just about pay. It’s about contracts, it’s about flexibility of working hours, it’s about benefits.”

Hospitality businesses across the country have raised similar concerns and Office for National Statistics states the number of pay-rolled employees in the sector dropped by 355,000 in the 12 months to March 2021.

While the British Beer and Pub Association said pubs are facing an “acute” staff short any some are having to “reduce capacity or close entirely”.

Bill Adams, TUC Yorkshire & Humber Regional Secretary, said many do not want to return to “low wage, zero hour shift work” in hospitality and employers “need to offer secure hours, dignity at work and a wage you can build a life on”.

Robert Goodwill, MP for Scarborough and Whitby, said businesses need to “explore every opportunity” to get school leavers, university students, unemployed people and furloughed workers to take on the vacant hospitality roles.

“I hope we can match up as many people as possible to the jobs available and people in hospitality may have to find accommodation for workers moving from other parts of the UK,” he said.

The Tory MP also said the Government “might have to look” at introducing “unskilled visas” for certain occupations.