Last-minute resignations add pressure as staff 'want a move away' from sector

By Emily Hawkins

- Last updated on GMT

Staffing woes: a number of operators said they had experienced last-minute resignations ahead of reopening (image: Getty/Igor Vershinsky)
Staffing woes: a number of operators said they had experienced last-minute resignations ahead of reopening (image: Getty/Igor Vershinsky)

Related tags Hospitality Legislation Health and safety

Pub operators are facing challenges with staffing and recruitment as restrictions ease up with a number describing being left in the lurch by sudden resignations.

Operators have described an issue with staff resigning on the cusp of the sector reopening this spring and said the sector has suffered since Brexit.

It comes as licensees need more staff to keep on top of fresh rules such as more stringent contact-tracing requirements and face covering rules.

The Morning Advertiser​ (MA​) also heard from one city operator who received just three job applications for a range of roles despite expecting around 80 based on previous postings.

“Skilled labour in our sector has always been challenging, but particularly since Brexit, we have had a reduced pool of potential employees to recruit from,” explained the British Institute of Innkeeping‘s chief executive Steve Alton.

Highlight the opportunities

“We know our industry is a fantastic place for people to grow and develop their careers, but more needs to be done to highlight the opportunities that are available for everyone,” he added.

There are concerns in the sector that the turmoil experienced by hospitality in the past year has made it a less appealing place to work.

Alton added: “We will be working hard to ensure these opportunities are better publicised, particularly with the younger generation who will become our entrepreneurial leaders of the future.”

Luke Champion of the Hollybush and the Horseshoes in Witney, Oxfordshire experienced staffing problems as his site relaunched earlier this month.

He explained: “We had several members of the team, including some key managers, resign in the first week of reopening with less than a week’s notice which is really frustrating.

“They obviously held off giving notice so that they kept their furlough but it left us in the lurch.”

However, the operator said he had experienced a “strong response” to job ads and thankfully was able to fill the roles with “some very experienced people.”

Change in lifestyle

Piers Baker, licensee of the Sun Inn, Dedham, Essex said he had avoided any major recruitment or staffing issues up until the start of this month. 

Four full time front of house staff and one manager handed in their resignations at the Sun Inn, ahead of the site’s full reopening.

“All cited wanting a change in lifestyle and a move away from hospitality,” the licensee added. 

The abrupt announcements from his staff left the site with little time to recruit but the operator reported a good response to his recruitment drive.

“Most of the staff joining us are coming from other hospitality businesses that are not reopening or are uncertain of their future,” Baker explained. 

“We have some who just want a new challenge. While it is going to make reopening a little more difficult that we'd hoped, we have got some time to do considerable training with them before proper opening on 17 May.”

Staff retention was the hardest among front of house staff who were aged 16 to 25, Baker said.

Stability wanted

He added: “We don't see basic pay or hours as an issue but certainly if we could pay people more, we may be able to attract front of house staff that give us more stability and longer service. 

“We have used recruitment agencies but to no greater success. And most of the time, we do most of the chasing and vetting.”

Responding to a social media callout, one pub described their recruitment attempts as an “utter nightmare right now.”

Recruitment challenges were “just one of the many negative effects stemming from a prolonged period of closure that hospitality has suffered,” UKHospitality boss Kate Nicholls said.

“While furlough has helped protect many sector jobs, businesses that have been haemorrhaging cash or accruing debt during enforced closures and trading restrictions have been forced to let staff go and were unable to reopen with full teams intact,” she explained.

Different sectors

“Some of these workers will have moved to different sectors that have been open and busy over the course of the pandemic.                 

“This is just more evidence of how hospitality has been uniquely hit by the pandemic and of the crucial need for Government to continue its support of the sector. For hospitality to rebuild and play its full role in the economic recovery, additional support for jobs as well as long term plans to facilitate enhanced training and apprenticeships are vital.” 

Paul Eeles, chief executive of BIIAB Qualifications said there were various sources of funding available at the moment to help publicans attract new talent.

He said: “In particular, the Kickstart Scheme helps to create jobs for young people, while the additional apprenticeship funding announced in the Spring Budget provides an incentive to hire new apprentices.

“Apprenticeships are an excellent way to hire both young people and adults and can help employers to develop a skilled and qualified workforce.”

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