Proportion of EU workers in hospitality sector falls as ‘potent combination’ of Brexit and Covid-19 hits

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

Recruitment figures: EU workers made up more than a third (37%) of the hospitality workforce in June 2021, compared to 43% in June 2019 (image: Getty/Ika84)
Recruitment figures: EU workers made up more than a third (37%) of the hospitality workforce in June 2021, compared to 43% in June 2019 (image: Getty/Ika84)

Related tags Training brexit Recruitment Fourth

The proportion of EU workers in the hospitality sector is at its lowest level since 2016 due to the “potent combination” of Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic, new data from Fourth has revealed.

The software supplier said that the proportion of British workers in hospitality has risen substantially over the past two and a half years.  

EU workers made up 37% of the hospitality workforce in ​June 2021, compared to 43% in ​June 2019.  Meanwhile, British workers made up 51% of the workforce in June 2021, compared to 46% in June 2019.

Only last week (Thursday 22 July) it was revealed every business in the hospitality sector had job roles to be filled​. The poll of more than 350 companies published by trade bodies UKHospitality, the British Beer & Pub Association and the British Institute of Innkeeping found that 84% were looking for front-of-house workers and  67% have non-chef roles to fill.

Consistent decline

Fourth said its data, which analysed more than 700 companies in the sector, revealed that the proportion of EU workers has been consistently declining since the UK formally left the European Union in January 2020, which was closely followed by the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic just two months later.

In that time, the proportion of EU workers in the sector has dropped from 43% in January 2020 to 37% in June 2021. This has been offset by a steady increase in British nationals, rising from 46% in January 2020 to 51% in June 2021. The proportion of workers from non-EU countries has remained relatively steady, increasing slightly from 11% in January 2020 to 12% in June 2021.

This trend continued across back-of-house and front-of-house roles in June, with British workers accounting for 32% of back-of-house roles and 55% of front-of-house roles, the highest proportion seen since Fourth started recording this data in 2016.

Potent combination

Fourth managing director EMEA Sebastien Sepierre said: “A potent combination of Britain’s departure from the EU and the devastating impact of the pandemic continues to significantly shake up the sector’s labour market.

“The much-publicised staffing crisis is proving hugely challenging for operators, as a consequence of a clear shrinking of the labour pool, in back-of-house roles in particular. It remains unclear how long this disruption might last and how it will be resolved in the months ahead during the long road to recovery. “

Fourth’s data also reveals that the pub sector appears to be the most resilient, with its headcount down 7% this month compared to July 2020, followed by hotels (13% down), restaurants (14% down) and QSRs (15% down).

According to Fourth’s data, 45% of payroll staff remain on full or flexi-furlough, the smallest proportion of workers since the scheme was introduced.

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