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Severe staff shortages impeding UK hospitality recovery

Hospitality businesses are generating hundreds of thousands of new jobs across the UK, but new data indicates that industry recovery is being curtailed by a chronic staff crisis

The ONS reports reports UK hospitality businesses currently advertising more than 174,000 vacancies | Photo credit: Tabitha Turner


New Office for National Statistics (ONS) data shows that UK hospitality businesses are trying to fill 83% more vacancies than they were in March-May 2019, when the most recent comparable data was collected.  

Despite the hospitality and leisure industries creating nearly 300,000 new jobs over the last 12 months, equal to one-in-three of all new jobs in the UK, the ONS, a UK non-ministerial government department, reports that hospitality in the UK is currently advertising more than 174,000 vacancies. 

According to UKHospitality, the high number of vacancies are impacting hospitality businesses ability to recover from the pandemic. 

“These figures show that the hospitality industry continues to return to growth and is attracting new people into the workforce. However, high vacancy rates are impeding our ability to trade. This is particularly concerning as we enter the summer, a key trading period for much of the sector,” said Kate Nicholls, CEO, UKHospitality. 

Meanwhile, Barclays Corporate Bank, which reports that 94% of hospitality and leisure businesses are struggling to recruit personnel, says that operators are establishing new incentives to recruit and retain talent. Permanent flexible working arrangements (23%) are the most popular measure, followed by an increase in staff welfare budgets and the introduction of bonuses (both 22%). 

Notably, the UK-based bank found that many hospitality businesses would be open to employing Ukrainian refugees fleeing the Russian invasion. Support is particularly high in Northern Ireland, where 88% plan to hire refugees, as well as in the East of England (87%) and Scotland (86%). 

Following the pandemic and the curtailment of European labour after Brexit, several UK-based coffee chains, including Costa Coffee, Pret A Manger and EG Group, which owns the LEON coffee and fast-food chain, have announced significant investments to boost worker pay in a bid to fill vacant roles and retain staff. 

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