Reduction of EU workers puts squeeze on hospitality

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Reduction of EU workers puts squeeze on hospitality

Related tags: brexit

The impact of the pandemic and post-Brexit immigration systems has led to a 'significant reduction' in EU nationals working in the hospitality sector, research from Fourth reveals.

In the first quarter of 2021, 34.9% of new starters were from the EU, compared to 48.6% in Q1 2019; and in total, EU workers made up 39.4% of the hospitality workforce, compared to 43.4% in Q1 2019.

Compared to April 2020, the workforce headcount is down 28% in total.

Coinciding with the reduction of EU workers, the data reveals that the percentage of British and Rest of the World (ROW) workers has grown considerably since 2019, with British workers currently making up 48% of the workforce and ROW workers making up 13%.

This is in comparison to the first quarter of 2019, where British workers made up 45% and ROW workers made up 10% of the workforce. 

When looking at the number of people starting new jobs in the hospitality sector, the majority of workers in Q1 2021 were British (54%), followed by EU (35%) and non-EU (11%) nationals.

These numbers have shifted considerably since Q1 2019, where EU workers were the dominant category in terms of new starters over the quarter (49%), followed by British (42%) and non-EU (9%) nationals. 

The pub sector saw the biggest decline in EU workers, dropping from 26% in Q1 2019 to 21% in Q1 2021. This is followed by the restaurant sector, dropping from 50% to 47%, and the hotel sector, dropping from 29% to 27%. 

With outdoor hospitality beginning to reopen across the UK this month, April saw the size of the workforce grow by 1%; the first time there has been positive growth since before the pandemic.

“It is very encouraging to see recruitment spike across the industry, as the easing of Government restrictions allows businesses to reopen," says Sebastien Sepierre, managing director – EMEA, Fourth.

"There is clearly pent-up demand from consumers, driven no doubt by the outstanding health and safety measures the industry has implemented.

“As restrictions ease further and indoor trading returns on 17 May, the necessity to recruit will heighten, placing a greater spotlight on the availability of workers.

"We have been tracking the makeup of the workforce for a number of years, and its reliance on transient workers from European countries has been a prominent feature, particularly in high demand back-of-house roles, such as chefs.

"Clearly, the pandemic, coupled with new immigration systems post-Brexit, have had a significant impact on the make-up and availability of workers from EU countries within our industry, which will become increasingly prominent as we return to full capacity."

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