This August, the CBI (Confederation of British Industry) published its report on post-Brexit immigration based on evidence collated from surveys conducted with business leaders and trade associations across 18 industry sectors. It painted a bleak picture for the hospitality and leisure industry: an industry that is undeniably reliant on the skills brought by EU migrants. For example, according to the study 75% of waiters/waitresses and 24% of chefs hail from Europe.
While it is understood that the EU workforce currently working here will have the opportunity to apply to remain, the overriding ‘anti-EU’ atmosphere perceived by many post-vote, has resulted in large numbers now considering to quit these shores. In fact, the industry is already feeling the pinch, with 1 in 5 hospitality mangers admitting to being frustrated in their attempts to attract the required talent within the past year.
The current administrative process of recruiting from outside of the EU (Tier 2 Visa) is currently so torturous that, when coupled with the financial burden of becoming a licenced sponsor, it discourages hospitality recruiters from turning to the international market. Terrifyingly, it is the prospect of this process that could spell the end for many small or independent operators if the government fails to negotiate a deal in March - resulting in the current non-EU migrant system being extended to encompass EU citizens also. Furthermore, this Tier 2 system is also completely unfit to supply the industry with entry level/mid-level workers as currently applicants for this visa must earn a minimum salary of £30k pa.
Adopting a different and somewhat unnerving stance is the MAC (Migration Advisory Commission) who published their post-Brexit forecast last month. In this report, the committee proffered a view that the approaching lower-skills shortage will simply be mitigated by extending the youth mobility scheme! If the government follows the advice of the MAC rather than the CBI (and this seems likely) by preferring to focus on high-skill/high-wealth migrants, surely the forecast for the hospitality industry is a dim one indeed.
All of this poses a question: Can we really afford to continue to sit on our hands, while the clock keeps ticking and the aforementioned ‘Whitehall silence’ begins to manifest itself as a death knell for the industry that feeds us all?
Robbie Leahy - Senior Recruitment Consultant
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