Are vacancies worse now than pre-pandemic?

By Rebecca Weller

- Last updated on GMT

Your thoughts: vote in our poll about labour shortages in the sector (image: Getty/skynesher)
Your thoughts: vote in our poll about labour shortages in the sector (image: Getty/skynesher)

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Pubs need the Government to lower tax burdens on the sector to tackle labour shortages as vacancies remain above pre-pandemic levels.

Managing director of the Three Hills at Bartlow pub in Cambridgeshire, Emma Harrison, told TheMorning Advertiser (MA)​ the sector’s biggest challenge was “convincing people a career in hospitality was worthwhile”.

She continued: “I’m not convinced Covid changed that perspective. Hospitality has always been seen as a stop gap job on the way to a proper career, which is such a shame.”

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Harrison added if the Government were to be “persuaded” of the need to lower the tax burden on hospitality firms in line with our European neighbours, “much of this would change” as businesses would be able to offer salaries “in line with other industries”.

In addition, the managing director explained ongoing labour shortages had been made worse by increased turnover of staff due to perceptions of a career in hospitality.

She said: “As most of our staff are students, we battle constantly with labour shortages, and deal with them by working harder ourselves to fill the gaps.

“You hire someone, you train them up, and they leave - for university, to travel, or for a better paid job. It’s tough out there.”

Sector vacancies

According to the latest data​ from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), vacancies across the sector were 15% above pre-pandemic levels, standing at 107,000, in the quarter to April 2024, compared with 93,000 pre-Covid.

The data also showed wages paid in the sector had increased by 9.5% in the year to March 2024, driven in part by ongoing wage inflation and the sector’s focus on recruitment and retention, as well as some business having implemented the April wage increases early.

UKHospitality (UKH) chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “Hospitality businesses are investing heavily in their people, but the lack of movement in vacancies shows the need for the sector to be unshackled in other areas to free them up to invest and drive economic growth.”

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