Business leaders in hospitality think the sector needs better support on immigration to avoid crippling labour shortages.

That is one of the exclusive headline findings emerging out of CGA’s 2020 Business Leaders’ Survey, the annual gauge of what the industry thinks. The poll reveals widespread concerns over a points-based system of immigration, and support for temporary visas to help fill vacancies in restaurants, pubs and bars.

The results reinforce alarm across the industry over the impact of the government’s new plans on immigration, which will see a new points-based system brought in from January 2021. The proposals reduce the salary threshold for employing skilled workers from overseas, but so far indicate no route into the UK for general low-skilled or temporary workers.

CGA’s Business Leaders Survey, run in partnership with Fourth and conducted before the plans were announced, reveals two in five (41%) leaders think a points-based system for immigration would have a negative impact on hospitality—twice as many as think it would have a positive impact (21%).

The poll confirms fears that the plans will make it harder to fill roles in an industry that heavily depends on overseas labour. Three quarters (77%) of business leaders think labour shortage areas should be taken into consideration when setting criteria for potential workers—significantly higher than any other factor, like language skills (56%), skilled work experience overseas (40%) or offers of employment (38%).

The Business Leaders’ Survey also reveals support for a system of temporary visas to ease pressure on labour shortages. Two thirds (66%) of leaders think a temporary visa should last for either 24 or 36 months—and just 8% don’t consider it to be a viable solution on immigration.

CGA group chief executive Phil Tate said: “We know that staff shortages are a huge concern for many restaurant, pub and bar operators, and the new proposals on immigration are only going to make things worse. A points-based system could dramatically affect access to labour, which would hurt investment, weaken the high street and—because we know that service and customer satisfaction are closely intertwined—ultimately reduce the pleasure of eating and drinking out. Our Business Leaders’ Survey shows the strength of feeling about freedom of movement in our industry and should remind the government of the damage it could do to hospitality if these proposals go ahead.”

Mike Shipley, Vice President of analytics at Fourth, said: “This latest announcement on immigration brings much cause for concern across all sectors in the hospitality industry. Given that 53% of our industry’s workforce is made up of overseas workers, the new legislation is set to have a catastrophic impact on the available pool of pub, bar, hotel and restaurant workers. Furthermore, this doesn’t take into consideration the specific nuances of the hospitality industry, such as tips, which are not included in the calculations for the new thresholds.

“The announcement comes after the government announced further increases to the NLW in April, which is a double blow for the industry. The already extensive pressure on wages will be further exacerbated by a shrinking pool of workers as the tap of new labour from Europe is turned off, presenting a mountain of rising labour costs for operators to climb. To combat this era of unprecedented wage inflation, it’s absolutely imperative that operators gain a true understanding of the current make up of their workforce, as well as looking at ways in which they can harness the power of technology and data to be more economical and efficient with how they deploy labour.”

CGA’s Business Leaders’ Survey received responses from 174 industry leaders working at CEO, Chair and director level. The full findings from the Survey, including in-depth insights into leaders’ confidence levels, market trends and other major industry issues, will be released next week.

     

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