BrexitA recent report commissioned from KPMG by the British Hospitality Association has identified the scale and key issues for UK hospitality when the UK leaves the European Union in 2019. The report, Labour migration in the hospitality sector, March 2017, considers the impact on the implications for the hospitality workforce for the future.

Here are the 12 things you should know, prepare for, rejoice in or shout against – depending upon your views on Brexit.

1. One in four of the UK hospitality workforce is an EU national. This masks huge variations, in London for example some hotels report that four out of five of their workforce are EU nationals.

2. The UK hospitality sector is the fourth largest employer in the UK and adds new jobs at the rate of 45,000 a year. It is estimated that the hospitality sector alone currently employs in excess of 3 million people.

3. It has the highest number of vacancies compared to any other industry sector and the scale of the vacancies has grown by 79 per cent over the past five years.

4. The highest reported hard to fill vacancies are in the areas of chefs and front of house, roles that are reported to be filled by a high proportion of EU nationals.

5. Employers report that they receive few if any applications from appropriately qualified local candidates and that EU nationals tend to have higher educational qualifications, a professional approach and work ethic, the professional skills, a willingness to move to where the work is and desirable language skills. 

6. If there is no new migration into the sector after 2019 and that the existing EU nationals are not required to leave, the shortfall that would previously have been made up of EU nationals will exceed 62,000 a year. This is in addition to the current shortfall. When projected over the next decade the total shortfall will exceed 1 million vacancies.

7. Where will this workforce be drawn from? The report suggests it will be difficult to fill the increased recruitment gap from within the UK as current experience indicates. The UK currently has a low unemployment rate (4.7 per cent) and there will be recruitment pressure from the other industry sectors that also have a high proportion of EU nationals within their workforce including healthcare, agriculture and construction.

8. It will take a concerted national effort to change the perception of the industry as a vibrant aspirational career and to attract the talent necessary to allow the industry’s continued growth.

9. The industry will need to invest in education and training at an unprecedented scale. In a period of continuing austerity such an investment is unlikely to come from the public purse.

10. There needs to be at least a ten-year transition period to allow the industry to mitigate the effects and to become a more UK centric employer. Government support will be needed to promote the hospitality industry as a professional career opportunity on a national scale and to support the significant investment in the education and skills needs of the future workforce.

11. Government policy is to reduce annual net migration to less than 100,000 per year. Assuming that there will be an appropriate work visa system to allow migrant workers that number would barely cover the projected needs of the hospitality industry.

12. The international perception of the UK, despite politicians assurances that the UK is still open for business, is not a positive one. The media headlines and rhetoric do not suggest that the UK is entirely welcoming to migrant labour. Unless this changes this rather begs the question of “Why would people want to come here to work in the future, even if they could?”

By Professor Peter A. Jones 

Peter Jones

Professor Peter Jones is the Dean of the eHotelier Academy. With a distinguished career in hospitality, education and training, Peter has been involved with national and international projects with clients involved in hospitality education. Peter is a Director of  the Edge Hotel School and of Hotel Future, a new education and training initiative in Greater Manchester and is a Visiting Professor at the University of Derby. He was also awarded a Member of the Order of the British Empire for services to the hospitality industry.