Brexit and the Hospitality Industry

The new year feels like it has been dominated by Brexit. At the time of writing the UK is just two months from leaving the EU but there is still a great deal of uncertainty about the arrangements for its departure. That uncertainty is keenly felt in the hospitality sector, where figures suggest approximately 40% of the workforce is made up of EU nationals.

Many employers are now grappling with the issue of how to support their EU employees in dealing with the consequences of Brexit. Some employers had elected to pay the fee required for EU nationals to apply for settled status, at least until the government changed its mind and waived the fee entirely (did someone mention uncertainty?).

There are still ways in which employers can help their EU employees, for example by making sure they are able to promptly respond to requests from employees for documents to support settled status applications (e.g. copy payslips, P60 forms etc.).

There are wider issues for employers to consider too. Since the referendum result growth in the number of EU workers in the UK has been falling and since the start of 2018 the numbers have actually been declining. That could lead to a shortage of suitable employees.

Many hospitality employers may now be thinking about adjusting their recruitment strategies. Placing more of an emphasis on retention over recruitment is likely to be advantageous if the labour market becomes more competitive. Examples might include offering flexible working arrangements, investing in employee benefits, devising new incentive schemes, or simply improving communication and feedback between the employer and the employees.

Despite the potential short term upheaval, it is possible that in the medium to long term there will be some benefits to employers post-Brexit. One of the stated aims of Brexit is to allow the UK more control over its laws. Much of UK employment legislation comes from EU law and after Brexit changes in this area will be possible.

There is unlikely to be a root-and-branch reform. However it is possible that we might see changes in respect of things like holidays (for example a reversal of the recent rulings that holiday pay should include commission and overtime, or changes to the right to carry over unused holiday where employees are on sick leave). There might also be changes to the rules on working time (for example removing the 48 hour working week restriction).

It is those employers who are able to embrace the uncertainty who are likely to make a success of Brexit. As per Einstein’s third rule of work: in the midst of difficulty lies opportunity.

Leyton Legal