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Hospitality jobs prove most difficult to fill post pandemic

Vacancies at hospitality businesses are more than twice as difficult to fill than other industries, with travel restrictions to the UK cited as a major hindrance. 

According to the latest ONS Business Insights and Conditions Survey taken from 23 August to 5 September, 30% of hospitality businesses said that their vacancies were harder than normal to fill for the time of year, compared with 13% across all other industries, up from 9% at the start of August). 

It comes as the number of vacancies reached record highs in June-August, with hospitality jobs openings up by 59.1% and those in transport up by 35.2% compared to pre-COVID levels (Jan-March 2020).

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Lack of EU applicants was cited for much of the dearth of applicants with one in four businesses stating it was a major impact, while transport topped the sectors affected with 46% of its businesses pointing to EU issues and education and hospitality sectors following suit at 39% and 41% respectively.

Speaking to HR magazine Jon Dawson, group director of people development at Lore Group which runs a chain of hotels across the UK, said one of the major issues emerging was travel restrictions

“They are really hindering the people with special status that went home in the pandemic and are still not confident enough to come back because of the complicated administration and costs of travel and also having the confidence to know what it would mean if we went into further restrictions in the winter," he said.

Lore Group is trying to encourage workers to come to the UK by supporting them with the admin, travel information and relocation practicalities. 

Dawson said: “We are looking at working with budget chain hotels to secure bedrooms at lower rates – because their occupation has been hit by the pandemic – to see if we can help provide a soft landing for people coming back.” 

He added that the group was also working to improve hospitality’s image and illustrate to new markets the benefits of working in the sector as part of its efforts.

“We’re working with schools and colleges to educate people about the benefits of a career in hospitality. It’s not just a pulling-pints and making-beds industry, there are areas like sales and marketing, HR, finance, digital where you can progress really quickly," he said.

Other sectors particularly struggling to fill roles include water (27%) and health (23%), followed by construction (15%) and transport (14%), the latter potentially reflecting the shortage of heavy goods drivers

Other figures from the survey showed there were 1,034,000 job vacancies in June to August 2021, an increase of 35.2% (269,300) on the previous quarter and the highest since the survey series began in 2001. 

While vacancies are at record levels, the total number of UK employees on payroll was around the same as it was in February 2020. Among industries, payrolled employment was generally rising in August 2021, but remained below pre-pandemic levels by as much as 6.0% in hospitality and 10.2% in arts and recreation