Fluid Employment Situation Brings New Pressures to the Hospitality Sector

The hospitality sector’s hoteliers and restaurant owners are under new pressure and are being urged need to review their employment practices, records and attitudes towards staff, both to assist recruitment and because of a ruling at a recent tribunal.

Recruitment has become a huge struggle in the over-stretched industry and many of the European workers who had held jobs in hotels and restaurants have already decided to return to their home countries. Underpaying staff in roles in both kitchens and front-of-house is commonplace, despite the long hours worked.

Some employers are leading the way in thinking differently, however. Take, for instance, M Restaurants, which introduced a Starting Wage on March 1 2019. This sees it paying £10 an hour to all employees and its introduction follows another M’s initiative – M-indful Days. These are four extra days, supplementary to holiday entitlement, intended to foster better mental health amongst employees. Additionally, M’s employees have access to Spill – an independent counselling app promoting workplace mental health.

Through such measures, M Restaurants is better able to recruit and retain employees, gaining a competitive advantage as an employer through higher motivation amongst staff and via the attraction of the best in the talent pool. It will be a struggle for many restaurant owners to match the £10-an-hour rate and other staff benefits that M Restaurants has created, potentially causing greater discontent amongst employees.

The hospitality sector has also had a recent wake-up call in the courts. On three different dates after April 21 2016, a Dorset hotel started three Polish employees. On July 7, 2016, all three were dismissed, having complained about persistent shortfalls in wages, late payment and payslip falsification. Taking their case to Court, they were able to successfully prove that they had never been provided with a Section One Statement of their working terms and conditions. They showed this had not been forthcoming at any time during their employment, or after it was terminated.

The ruling by The Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) judge who heard this case was that the employees had been entitled to a statement of their employment terms within one month of being taken on. Prior to this, two months’ service had been deemed the term that employees should work before receiving such terms. Consequently, the new ruling will shake up the world of hospitality and other high-turnover sectors and force them to pay more attention to employment law and the consequences of breaching it.

Employees working in hospitality now have a little more power. A simple misunderstanding or misinterpretation of the law could easily. lead to swift litigation in a powder-keg of an industry full of stress and mental health strains, as well as long hours.

The answer for hoteliers and restaurant owners is that of establishing clear, fair and compelling rights packages and explaining terms in plain English, so there is no confusion. They would be well-advised to protect their business by buying legal expenses protection, which will step in to pick up legal costs, should a worker take a case to a tribunal.

If you need help with getting this type of insurance protection in place, please get in touch. It is better to be safe than sorry.