Brexit has made the right to work and live in the UK considerably more restricted for EU citizens, which will significantly impact employers, particularly in the hospitality sector.

The difficulties ahead

Although the hospitality industry is often faced with difficulties regarding retaining and attracting workers, Brexit and the pandemic have exacerbated this.

Extended periods of furlough have forced staff to look for work elsewhere and now new visa requirements are causing foreign workers to be turned away at the border, leaving hospitality businesses facing a considerable employment gap.

New entry requirements for foreign workers

Those looking to work in the UK from the EU now need a skilled work visa, which may require sponsorship. For a business to do this, it requires a sponsor licence which does carry a financial cost.

Workers must also meet the skill and salary levels set by the Home Office, in-line with the new points-based system. The general minimum salary threshold is £25,600 per year and the minimum qualification level is RQF3, which is equivalent to job role at an A-level. Those on a lower salary may still apply by trading points, providing they can meet the threshold with qualifications or experience.

However, this could be a considerable barrier for the hospitality sector, due to the significant number of "low-skilled" roles.

Applicants must also be offered a full-time position within the UK, which for bars and restaurants relying on zero-hours contracts, complicates things.

Possible hurdles to overcome

As the industry slowly returns to pre-pandemic levels, staff shortages in areas such as waiting and food preparation will be the main hurdles for venues.

Longer term, changes to the wages of hospitality staff may be necessary. However, this runs the risk of becoming a substantial overhead for businesses still financially recovering from the pandemic.

Hospitality may also have to shift its foreign talent pools and develop new bilateral relations with other countries such as Australia.

Finding a solution

Until the industry can overcome the challenges facing foreign workers, there are other short-term solutions that can be utilised:

  • Youth Mobility Scheme: Available to those from certain countries between 18 and 30 years old, this allows people to live and work in the UK for up to two years. EU nationals aren't currently included, but this may be subject to change.
  • Graduate Visa Scheme: Having launched in July 2021, this scheme is aimed at international graduates already living in the UK. It will allow degree-level students to stay and work for two years and PhD students for three without sponsorship.

Moving forward

It is important that any areas facing extreme difficulties with recruiting workers make it known through stakeholders a call for evidence to the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC).

MAC can then make recommendations to the Government, with roles facing shortages potentially added to the Shortage Occupation list. Jobs placed on this list will not have to meet salary requirements to be approved for a visa.

While Brexit and the pandemic have taken a huge toll on the industry, it's not all negative. Over 6 million EU citizens applied to the EU Settlement Scheme, enabling the industry to move forward with those already living and working in the UK.

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