The Travel & Tourism survey of 153 operators revealed that around a third of staff working in guest houses, hotels, restaurants and pubs are now employed on zero-hour contracts, but 60 per cent regularly work more than 20 hours a week and three quarters of those staff are frequently getting more than 40 hours work per week.
MHA said the survey painted a picture of ‘an industry starting to benefit from an upturn in trading conditions’, adding that 56 per cent of the businesses surveyed reported improved profitability in the last 12 months, with 58 per cent predicting that 2014 will see even bigger improvements.
“The travel and tourism sector is emerging from a sustained period of low growth, but with discretionary spending improving across the economy as a whole, the hope is that – weather permitting – the year ahead will see the return of profitability capable of supporting future investment plans,” says Andrew Burnham, head of the MHA Travel and Leisure sector group.
“One indicator of this growing confidence is the number of employees working extended hours on zero hours contracts – this sector was always going to be an adopter of this employment option, but the numbers working what might be considered a ‘standard’ working week suggest that this arrangement is working for both parties.”
Not all businesses are experiencing an upswing, with 50 per cent of those surveyed stating that their turnover was stagnant or growing by less than 5 per cent over 12 months.
However, almost a quarter of the operators surveyed plan to invest in refurbishing their premises this year.
Social media investment
The survey revealed also revealed a reluctance among some operators to adopt social media, despite an uplift in online bookings.
Online bookings increasing for 62 per cent of respondents in the last year, but just under half (46 per cent) said they see ‘little or no benefit’ of engagement with Facebook and Twitter.
Only 16 per cent said they would be investing in social media to support their business development.
“For a sector so reliant upon personal service and positive communication, there is perhaps a surprising reluctance among a significant minority to embrace the social media era,” said Burnham. “Particularly when the volume of bookings being made online is increasing year-on-year.”
Zero hour contracts
Last month, the government banned exclusivity clauses on zero-hour contracts, giving employees on zero-hour contracts the freedom to work for more than one employer.
Introducing the new legislation, business secretary Vince Cable said the government recognised the necessity of zero-hour contracts for the hospitality industry, but wanted to ensure that they could not be abused by ‘unscrupulous employers’.
The government will be working with unions and businesses to develop a best practice guide for employers who wish to use zero hour contracts.