Bacta CEO urges government to place our sector on the shortage occupations list

John White was one of the industry commentators invited to share his insight on the labour shortage facing bacta members and the hospitality industry in general. Here’s what he had to say to readers in this week’s edition of Coinslot. 

CS: There is growing concern at the shortage of staff for the summer season. What feedback are you getting from your members?  

All of the feedback that we are receiving and all of the commentary in the trade press confirms that staffing both in terms of recruitment and retention – continues to be an important issue for bacta members as it does for many in the retail and hospitality sectors.  In the current labour market businesses can take staff on, train them at some cost, only to find they leave to get a job elsewhere which may pay slightly more or offer a raft of fringe benefits. Wage inflation is a major contributor to the costs of running a business and unlike other sectors our members who provide low-stake gambling entertainment aren’t able to pass-on additional costs to consumers. Inflationary rises come off the bottom-line.

CS: There is a clear problem, particularly for the entire hospitality sector. What are the reasons behind this shortage of staff?  

Brexit coupled with the impact of Covid has led to many of our European staff returning to their country of birth and simply not returning to the UK. Their perception is that the UK is no longer an attractive proposition for a variety of reasons including the cost-of-living crisis, employment opportunities, the bureaucracy of gaining work visas and life-style factors. 

CS: What can the government do to ease this problem?  

The fundamental change that’s required is to place jobs in our sector on the shortage occupations list.  Having a more dynamic approach to labour shortages is paramount. We need to remove some of the barriers to being employed in the UK.

CS; There are many businesses who say that Brexit has, if not created, certainly compounded the problem. Is there a ready-made solution in the easing of some of the Brexit rulings to reverse the recruitment problems?  

Whatever your political views from a business perspective free movement was a godsend: however, it was not what the population voted for in 2016 and it’s unlikely to return.  The big hurdle for this and for future governments is to identify how to replicate the benefits of free movement and balance the outcome with the political challenge of demonstrating that we have control of our borders.