Report highlights hospitality sector's recruitment challenges

By John Harrington

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Employment

The hospitality sector traditionally finds it difficult to recruit staff
The hospitality sector traditionally finds it difficult to recruit staff
The hospitality and tourism industry's recruitment difficulties are “ostensibly a retention problem”, with labour turnover across the sector now at 20%, according to People 1st.

The Publican's Morning Advertiser​'s sister title, M&C Report​, analysed three new policy insight reports​ by People 1st. They highlighted the fact that the sector needs to recruit a further 843,000 staff by 2020, of which a clear majority - 700,000 - are to replace existing employees.

While average turnover is 20%, the figure for pubs, bars and nightclubs are the highest at 26%, with self-catering accommodation, holiday parks and hostels the lowest at 8%.


People 1st, which is the skills and workforce development charity for the hospitality and tourism industry, highlights the transient nature of the sector’s workforce, with 15% of them being full-time students and 25% migrant workers. For the UK economy as a whole, the comparative figures are 4% and 15%.

The report says: “The tourism sector and the hospitality industry in particular have traditionally found it difficult to recruit staff. However, since 2008 and the onset of the economic downturn recruitment into lower skilled roles has become much easier.

According to the figures from the Hospitality Employment Index in the second quarter of 2013, there were on average 21 applicants per hospitality role. This contrasts with People 1st’s research in 2005 that found there were two vacancies for every applicant.


“The Hospitality Employment Index underlines the difficulty of filling more skilled roles, as it found an average of 10 applicants per chef role, compared to 80 for a waiting role. The recruitment of more skilled entrants has continued to be challenging despite the economic downturn. In 2013, 5% of sector employers reported skill shortages, which is slightly higher than the economy as a whole (4%).”

As well as a shortage of skills, 20% of employers reported that their staff did not have sufficient skills to meet their business’ needs; this amounts to a shortfall of around 366,000 skilled employees. By 2020 a further 215,000 skilled workers will need to be recruited to the sector as it is anticipated to grow by over 2% per annum.

“The tourism sector has a number of skills challenges to address before it has a fully productive workforce. In 2013, 7% (which reflects 19,867 hard-to-fill vacancies) of sector employers reported that they had hard-to-fill vacancies because they couldn’t find sufficient applicants with the right skills.”

The skills shortage impacts businesses by increasing the workload for other staff and affecting businesses’ ability to meet its own needs before considering the introduction of new working practices.


The report gives some reasons for why the sector finds it more difficult to recruit suitable candidates. These include the perception that it doesn’t offer career opportunities, that pay is lower than elsewhere, and flexible working, particularly through zero-hours contracts, make it difficult for a large proportion of job seekers.

The annual salary of an employee in accommodation and food service is £13,930, compared to an average of £27,174 across the economy. Meanwhile, 85% of bar and waiting staff and 80% of kitchen and catering assistants are paid below the living wage, the greatest proportions across any job role in the economy.

The report also warns that a reliance on younger workers could be “problematic in the medium term” given the impact of demographic changes - recent research from the European Commission has highlighted the UK’s workforce growth will turn negative in 2023, which will mean that the labour pool of young people will shrink significantly over the next decade.

One in three sector employees are under 25, compared to 12% across the economy as a whole.

It suggests the recruitment problems could be addressed by attracting a more diverse workforce to include more women in senior posts and bringing older workers into the sector would result in a more workforce with reduced turnover.

Furthermore, it recommends that businesses should invest in training to address their specific needs but warns this would require active participation of managers to support the learner and empower them in their role.

Related topics Training

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