Exodus of non-British workers ‘disastrous’ for pub sector

By Georgina Townshend

- Last updated on GMT

Significant problems: pub sector's concerns over number of EU workers considering leaving the UK
Significant problems: pub sector's concerns over number of EU workers considering leaving the UK

Related tags United kingdom European union

About one in three non-British workers in the UK are considering leaving the UK in the next five years, which could be “disastrous” for the pub sector, leading bodies have said.

As the UK negotiates its impending exit from the EU, a survey conducted by Deloitte found that 36% of non-British workers in the UK are considering leaving the UK in the next five years, while more than a quarter (26%) are thinking about leaving within three years.

Highly skilled workers from EU countries are the most likely to go, according to the business advisory firm, with 47% considering leaving in the next five years.

Overall, the report indicates significant changes in the UK labour market, which Deloitte said will “require a measured immigration approach, upskilling UK workers and making better use of automation for the UK to adapt successfully”.

Significant problems

Commenting on the survey, Oakman Inns chief executive Peter Borg-Neal said eating and drinking-out businesses will face “significant problems” if large numbers of EU migrants decide to leave the UK.

And Kate Nicholls, chief executive of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) agreed, saying that if non-UK workers do not have an ongoing right to live and work in the UK, employers will “struggle to fill vacancies and meet projected growth targets”.

“The end result could be disastrous for the sector and the knock-on effect for the UK’s high streets and economy could be significant,” she said.

According to findings from a recent British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) survey, 27% of its members’ workforce are from overseas, with this increasing to 40% in more metropolitan areas.

Research by KPMG also shows that the hospitality sector is facing a shortfall of 60,000 staff on top of the 200,000 already needed to keep pace with predicted growth, the ALMR said.

Employee engagement

Borg-Neal added: “Quality people have the ability to be mobile and to move where the best opportunities and lifestyles are available.

“The weakness of sterling and uncertainty caused by Brexit makes the UK less attractive.”

Oakman Inns' strategy to retain its best staff is to make sure it “offers high levels of employee engagement”, he said.

He added: “This will also enable us to be competitive in our marketplace.

“From a wider point of view, the Government needs to stop making fatuous comments about their negotiating position and deliver absolute certainty to people currently living and working in the UK.”

David Hoyle, people director at Fuller’s, said the pubco is taking a number of steps to retain its current EU nationals and attract others in the future – including paying permanent residency fees for anyone who is eligible and has been with them for over a year. 

“The Deloitte’s research isn’t really a surprise – we know that people do want to come and work in the UK, but we would like to see full clarification with regards to EU nationals as soon as possible," he said.

"In the meantime we will continue to invest in our people and focus on creating jobs with a clear career path, accompanied by a package with wide appeal to both UK and EU team members as well as those from further afield.”

Uncertainty is unsatisfactory

BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds said there is “no doubt” that companies are finding it more difficult to attract non-UK staff to work in their pubs, particularly in metropolitan areas.

“The uncertainty for existing employees is unsatisfactory,” she added. 

However, Simmonds stated that the proposal from the Government that EU nationals who have been here for five years will be able to apply for settled status was “a step in the right direction”.

UK remains attractive to foreign workers

The study also found that 89% of non-British workers find the UK either quite attractive or highly attractive as a work destination and, of those currently based outside the UK, 87% would consider moving to the UK if the “right opportunity presented itself”.

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