Immigration Solutions in the Hospitality Sector
A recent Daily Mail article with the title ‘’Where have all the waiters gone? Booming pubs and restaurants face staff shortage - and they won't work for crumbs any more’’ highlights a problem that those in the hospitality industry are facing now that COVID-19 related lockdowns are easing and the UK hospitality sector is opening up again. In this article we look at the immigration related problems faced by the UK hospitality sector and the immigration solutions.
UK Immigration and Employment Solicitors
Immigration and employment issues in the hospitality sector
You would think that with so much of the hospitality sector having been closed during significant parts of 2020 and 2021 that a quick phone call from an employer would have the employees off furlough and back at work serving customers. It isn’t that simple.
In large parts of the UK, particularly in London and other cities, the hospitality sector is heavily reliant on overseas workers carrying out front of house jobs as well as the equally important background jobs, such as cleaning or kitchen work. When workers were placed on furlough many returned home, not to their bedsits or shared flats, but to their country of origin. Alternatively, workers were made redundant by employers because of the COVID-19 related financial difficulties the businesses experienced. Those ex-employees also returned to their home countries. When the call to arms came from UK hospitality bosses for staff to return to work, many in the hospitality industry found that their workers had disappeared and would not be returning.
High staff turnover in some hospitality businesses is an accepted fact. Historically it has never been a real problem for HR directors and specialist hospitality recruiters because of the availability of EU and EEA nationals willing to work long unsociable hours at often modest rates of pay. Brexit and the end of free movement on the 31 December 2020 put paid to the ready supply of skilled migrant workers and lower skilled workers from the EU. This problem is compounded by:
- Not all students returning to university and able to take on part-time employment combined with a reduction in number of international students.
- EU workers who previously worked in the UK not wanting to return or not meeting the eligibility criteria for settled status or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme.
- Lack of immigration work visa for workers from either the EU or from non-EEA countries to enter the UK to carry out lower skilled work. That’s because the government hasn’t introduced a lower skilled work visa in its new points-based immigration system and nor has it created an industry specific hospitality visa.
That is why London recruiters are noting a rise in hourly rates for jobs such as waiters and baristas. In addition, chain restaurants are advertising for large numbers of new staff. The rise in hourly salary rates combined with significant numbers of vacancies being advertised by national chains makes it all the harder for high street cafes and coffee shops and local take-aways and family restaurants to hire the workers they need when the UK opens up indoor hospitality again on the 17 May.
Many are unsympathetic to the plight of those in the hospitality sector assuming that business owners can replace their EU workers with UK workers but the reality is that many UK workers can find jobs where they don’t have to stand for a full shift whilst being polite to diners and drinkers or to rise in the early hours to clean hotel rooms or pubs.
Immigration solutions in the hospitality sector
When it comes to immigration solutions to the growing recruitment crisis in the UK hospitality sector it is best to start with looking at your current workforce and protecting, in so far as it is possible to do so, what you have.
Whilst no one can stop other restaurants or hotels poaching your staff by offering them better pay or hours you can look at staff loyalty schemes for all employees as well as ensuring that your EU, EEA and Swiss workers who joined your employment before the 31 December 2020 have the right to live and work in the UK after the 30 June 2021.
Any EU, EEA or Swiss national won't be able to continue to work in the hospitality or other UK industry unless they apply for settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme. The cut-off date for applications is the 30 June 2021. Some hospitality workers may have already applied for pre-settled status or settled status but many don’t realise the importance of doing so or are worried about the paperwork involved. Specialist immigration solicitors, like the team at London based OTS Solicitors, offer a solution with a same day settled status application service to encourage EU workers to get their application processed before the deadline of the 30 June 2021.
If your hospitality business can't recruit sufficient numbers of workers from within the UK then you may need to consider applying for a sponsor licence from the Home Office to enable your hospitality business to sponsor EU or non-EEA workers on skilled worker visas. EU, EEA and Swiss citizens who moved to the UK after the end of the transition period and the cessation of free movement of EU citizens on the 31 December 2020 need a work visa.
Under the points-based immigration system, the old-style Tier 2 (General) visa was replaced by the skilled worker visa. Some hospitality workers, whether from the EU or from non-EEA countries, will meet the eligibility criteria for the skilled worker visa because:
- Unlike the old Tier 2 (General) visa, a skilled migrant worker doesn’t need a degree level job to secure a skilled worker visa. The skill level for a skilled worker visa is the equivalent of an UK A level standard qualification.
- The hospitality worker doesn’t need to have been awarded an A level qualification (or equivalent qualification from their home country) to meet the visa skills criteria. That’s because it is the job (rather than the specific worker) who must be at that minimum skill level.
If a company in the hospitality industry doesn’t already have a sponsor licence to recruit skilled migrant workers, then a first application for a sponsor licence can be made. Specialist business immigration lawyers at OTS Solicitors can quickly and efficiently process your sponsor licence application and advise you on whether your available vacancies are likely to meet the eligibility criteria for skilled worker visas and can then manage the sponsor licence for your business.
Some hospitality businesses may see the solution as employing workers who don’t have the right paperwork . However, if a company doesn’t comply with right to work checks and employs workers without the right paperwork then the company faces prosecution and fines for being in breach of illegal working legislation. The hospitality business will then find it that much harder to secure a sponsor licence to recruit for their hospitality business. Whilst the thought of extra paperwork may seem overwhelming, major pub and restaurant chains are already reflecting the cost of Brexit, and the consequent recruitment issues, in the cost of a pint or the price of a curry.
UK Immigration and Employment Solicitors
For expert and efficient immigration and employment legal advice on hiring EU workers or to make a sponsor licence applicationcall the immigration law team at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online. Appointments are available by phone or video call.