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Blog: Latest Figures Reveal a Spike in EU Workers Entering the Hospitality Industry

As free movement of labour takes centre stage in Brexit negotiations, the latest figures from Fourth, the leading global software partner to the hospitality and leisure industries, has revealed that, despite the ongoing narrative around the end of free movement, there has been an increase in EU workers entering the industry during November.

The news comes after several months of declining numbers, with new EU entrants to the industry falling from 41.5% in July, to 38.5% in September. However, the latest statistics for November reveal this has now reverted, with 44% of new starters from the EU.

The driving force behind this growth has been an influx of seasonal workers to the pub industry. Over the last four months the makeup of the pub workforce has remained relatively flat with 78% of workers from the UK, 17% from the EU, and 5% from the Rest of the World (ROW).

However, November saw a marked increase in the proportion of EU workers in the pub industry, with figures altering to 68% from the UK, 26% from the EU and 6% from the ROW. Interestingly, these figures directly correlate to a surge of EU workers experienced this June, which suggests that seasonal workers from the EU support the pub trade when it enters a busy period, such as Christmas or a large sporting event.

During August and September there was a surge in new starters from the UK, with figures rising to 54.5% in September (up from 52% in July). November figures show this trend has also reverted with 47% of new starters coming from the UK; and 8.5% from the rest of the world (ROW).

The number of UK workers leaving the industry fell to 48% in November, after rising to 55.5% in September. Meanwhile, the number of EU workers leaving the industry increased to 42% in November, after falling to 37.5% in September; while leavers from the ROW increased slightly to 8.5% in November, up from 7% in September.

The increase in new starters from the EU is welcome news for the hospitality industry which is heavily reliant on foreign workers. Looking at the make-up of the workforce, the statistics reveal that, as of November 2018, 42% of workers in the restaurant, QSR (quick service restaurants/fast-food), hotel and pub sectors are from the EU. British workers make up 48% (down from 50% in July) and the remaining 10% come from the ROW.

However, the numbers spike significantly for QSR, with almost two thirds (65%) of workers coming from outside the UK – 54.5% from EU and 10.5% from rest of the world. While the reliance on foreign workers remain high, these figures show there has been a significant influx of UK workers to the sector, rising by 8% since September.

On the other hand, the restaurant industries reliance on foreign workers is increasing further, particularly in skilled back of house roles. In July, we reported that 30% of restaurant workers in BOH roles were from the UK, but this number has now decreased to just 26%; with EU workers climbing from 58% in July, to 62% in November. Considering, ROW workers account for 12% of the workforce, 74% of workers are from outside of the UK.

From a regional perspective, the hospitality industry’s reliance on EU workers is significantly exacerbated in London with 52% of the workforce from the EU. Interestingly, the figures show that Northern Ireland and East of England are also very reliant on EU workers representing 46% and 45% of the workforce, respectively.

Mike Shipley, Analytics & Insight Solutions Director at Fourth, said: “Against an uncertain political backdrop as to the future of the free movement of labour from the European Union, it is welcome news to see there has been an influx of EU workers entering the industry, after several months of falling numbers.

“Interestingly, driving this influx, is the pub industry which has experienced a surge in workers from the EU as we approach the busy Christmas period. This trend reflection fluctuations experienced in June, suggesting that EU workers enter the industry and pick up extra shifts, during busy periods.

“This further reveals our industry’s reliance on foreign workers, particularly in the restaurant and quick service restaurant sectors, as well as back of house roles. Amongst the many challenges our industry currently faces, people are often listed as the biggest concern and ensuring a pragmatic immigration system after Brexit, along with a conscious, combined and concerted effort to attract young UK talent into the industry, is imperative.

“In this uncertain environment, at the very least, operators need to have a clear understanding of the make-up of their workforce. In addition, with the high churn of workers in the industry, making your business an attractive prospect for employee and ensuring you have maximised efficiencies across your management of people and product is key.

“Our sole aim is helping our clients negotiate these challenges, whether it’s introducing an innovative ‘Pay-as-You-Go’ payment solution to attract employees, such as our partnership with Wagestream, or nailing down demand forecasting and working with partner technology providers to give a complete snapshot of business performance in one easy-to-view dashboard with single sign on capabilities.”

The statistics were mined from Fourth Analytics and based on a sample comprising over 30,000 hospitality industry employees, with an even split across the restaurant, QSR, hotel and pub sectors.

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