The figures’ release follows the publication of the Home Office’s Brexit White Paper on 12 July, which asserted that free movement of people will end in December 2020.
Fourth’s statistics – based on a sample comprising more than 30,000 hospitality employees – reveal that as of June 2018, 40% of workers in the restaurant, hotel and pub sectors were from the EU, with British workers making up 50% of the total, and staff from the rest of the world accounting for 10%.
The numbers spike for quick-service restaurants and fast-food outlets, where almost three quarters (73.1%) of workers come from outside of the UK – 62.7% from the EU and 10.4% from the rest of the world.
Overall, the pub sector is less reliant on overseas workers than the hotel and restaurant industries, with 15.7% of its workforce coming from EU countries compared to 52% and 30.3% in the restaurant and hotel industries respectively.
However, pubs have the highest turnover of workers with the average length of tenure currently standing at nine months – compared to average hotel and restaurant staff tenure at 16 months.
Fourth analytics & insight solutions director Mike Shipley said: “These figures clearly demonstrate how heavily reliant hospitality is on foreign nationals, especially in the quick-service restaurant sector and back-of-house positions, such as chefs.
“The narrative in the Brexit White Paper is concerning for the industry and if the free movement of workers is removed by 2020, there would need to be a quick and easy visa system, or it would have a very negative impact on UK hospitality businesses.
“In the face of this, it is crucial that employers understand the make-up of their workforce and undertake targeted recruitment strategies to future proof their business.
"At present, pubs, which traditionally employ a younger British demographic, face the least risk but other sectors, in particular quick-service restaurants, should look inwardly at their operations so they can retain their current employees and make their business a more attractive proposition for UK workers.”
Need for urgent discussion
UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls added: “This research underscores the message that UKHospitality has highlighted to the Government about the vital importance of EU workers to the hospitality sector, and the sector’s overall importance to the UK economy.
“The Government has provided employers with short-term reassurances but we are now at a stage where we need to be urgently discussing future immigration policy beyond the transition period; one that will have a significant impact on the landscape of the sector."
Following the referendum result in June 2016, there remains a steady flow of foreign workers joining the hospitality industry.
The proportion of new starters from the EU stabilised at 40% in June 2018 having fallen from 45% over the previous 18 months while the proportion of EU workers leaving has levelled at 44% – increasing from 40% over the same period.