Push training while staff are furloughed, say operators

By Emily Hawkins

- Last updated on GMT

Planning for the future: pub operators want to hit the ground running when they reopen
Planning for the future: pub operators want to hit the ground running when they reopen

Related tags coronavirus

Operators have said they would like the Government to enable them to request staff do training while pubs are closed, rather than this being voluntary.

Claire Alexander,  who runs the Cotswolds-based Yubby Inns, can access comprehensive training and courses for staff through its NatWest Business Mentor Live Scheme but cannot push staff to complete them.

Under the furlough scheme, employers can only point their staff in the direction of training – which the Government has recommended.

The guidance states: “Furloughed employees can engage in training as long as, in undertaking the training, the employee does not provide services to, or generate revenue for, or on behalf of their organisation. Furloughed employees should be encouraged to undertake training.”

Alexander said: “It would be much better if the Government allowed us to request them to complete training during furlough rather than insisting they do nothing, especially as it doesn’t generate revenue but will help our businesses, some of the most badly affected during the crisis.”

Alexander is among those wanting adjustments made to the current Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme​, which has been criticised for lacking flexibility for employers.

Think-tank Reform recommended the scheme be adapted for certain sectors after the lockdown is eased, meaning pub staff could work a reduced service with the Government topping up their wages.

Alexander added: “I don’t mean compulsory but I think it would be better if the Government allowed us to request staff to do something useful for the company that they can do while in furlough as opposed to not be asking them to do anything.

“Our staff will have to do training anyway so it makes sense for them to be undertaking stuff that’s easy to do at home now.”

Looking forward, Alexander said she will be on the lookout for training about how to reopen with social distancing measures in place and how to prepare the pub for a changed society.

Prepared for reopening

This view is shared by Dan Smaje, who runs the White Hart, Headington, Oxfordshire, who said he is waiting to hear more about when pubs will reopen and is cautious about finances.

He said: “We have not been doing any training as of yet. At the moment, we are focusing on saving every penny as it is looking like pubs are not going to reopen for a considerable time. 

“We are also hoping the Government gives us plenty of notice about the reopening date so we can then retrain all the staff so we hit the ground running.”

British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) chief executive Steven Alton said many pubcos and breweries were offering links to free online training to their pubs.

The organisation has produced guides to help its members access resources on ensuring food hygiene levels and social distancing measures are adhered to.

Alton added: “Training your furloughed staff is a great opportunity for businesses to keep in touch with their teams, but also make sure that their skills are sharpened ahead of reopening. We’ve had positive feedback from businesses whose staff are keen to learn and help ready their operation for the challenges that lie ahead.

“Our focus, as an industry support body, is to look to the next phase of activity and provide guidance, structure and clarity on what measures our members need to put in place for a safely reopened venue, when they are able to. 

“There needs to be a visible benchmark that will give consumers reassurance that they are visiting a safe venue with competent, responsible staff providing hospitality in the early stages of reopening.”

What training is out there?

Several pub companies have created online portals with links to online training options or continued partnerships with training providers.

Brewhouse & Kitchen said it was proactively supporting apprenticeship recruitment during this closure period, as well as signposting staff to online resources.

Punch is working with CPL so publicans can access support for their teams, including mental health awareness, technical skills and other e-learning modules.

Punch HR director Jackie Burn said: “It has been fantastic to see so many of our publicans taking this time to, not only come up with new ways to adapt their businesses and provide safe and vital services to their communities, but also to focus on accessing training for themselves and their teams.”

It has seen an increase of more than 200% in new learners accessing its platform in just two weeks. 

Popular modules include age verification, allergen awareness, food safety, perfect pours, first aid awareness and personal resilience.

HIT Training hospitality academy principal Jeremy Scorer said there has been an uptake in interactive online workshops for furloughed learners, with live workshops run by a tutor.

He added: “This approach has been found to be the most engaging, rewarding and motivational approach to ‘home study’. The subjects range across customer service and communication, business and profitability, food safety and management skills.”

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