The Annual Population Survey from ONS showed the employment rate (ER) had fallen to 3.7% between January and March 2022, the lowest for almost 50 years, as job openings across the UK soared to 1.3m.
Fourth managing director EMEA Sebastien Sepierre said: “Recruitment continues to be a major challenge for the sector as it builds back after an extremely challenging two-year period.
“When it comes to labour, it’s more important than ever sector businesses are continuing to plan ahead, helping them to accurately manage demand and ensure they have the optimum number of staff across each and every shift.”
The data, based on the period of January to December 2021, showed the bracket of ‘other elementary services’, which employed a total of 899,100 people in roles such as bar staff and servers, saw an overall ER of 2.8% compared to 1,055,500 in 2019 with an overall ER of 3.2%.
Recruitment and retention
Of those 899,100, employed bar staff totalled 154,000 (0.5% ER) compared to 204,000 (ER 0.6%) in 2019, while 215,500 employees were waiters and waitresses (0.7% ER), a decline of 0.1% since 2019, and 444,800 were employed as kitchen and catering assistants (1.4% ER) compared to a 1.6% ER in 2019.
Furthermore, of the 45,500 people employed in the category of hotel, accommodation managers and proprietors’ last year, 27,300 were publicans and managers of licensed premises, an employment rate of just 0.1%, which has remained unchanged.
The 2019 survey also saw the sector employ 244,300 chefs, an employment rate of 0.8%, while the most recent data showed an employment rate of 0.6% with 194,100 employed chefs in 2021.
This comes as almost four out of five (79%) operators increased pay rates for staff to improve recruitment and retention, according to the latest UKHospitality (UKH) and CGA Future Shock Report in March.
At the Chaser Inn, Shipborne, Kent, general manager Duke Chidgey recently told the Morning Advertiser he has had to raise wages to be competitive, including increasing the pubs sous chef wage offering to £40,000 a year including tips.
According to Chidgey, things had been “extremely tough” at the pub as it was operating the same amount of business but with half the chefs.
No chefs, no business
“I can’t afford not to have chefs, or we haven’t got business.” he added.
UKH CEO Kate Nicholls said: “Currently the hospitality sector has more than 160,000 vacancies, double that of pre-pandemic levels, and recruitment is a key challenge for operators looking to rebuild and recover following the last two years.
“Pre-pandemic the industry generated £130bn in economic activity and contributed £39bn of tax to the Exchequer.
“To fully recover and, crucially, to play an optimal role in the national economic recovery, we need to attract and retain good people at all levels. Offering flexibility is a critical part of this.”