West End recovery & staff shortages

Businesses across London have been facing recruitment and staffing issues for several years, particularly in the hospitality, leisure and cultural sectors.

The latest official figures from the Office for National Statistics this week show there were 173,000 vacancies in the hospitality sector across the UK last month, many in the capital which is an issue that is unfortunately hindering the post-pandemic recovery.

To understand the impact on West End businesses, Heart of London Business Alliance conducted a survey to determine the scale of the issue and how we can best support our members to combat the severe shortages of workers that are preventing those businesses from reaching their full potential.

We would like to thank those that took the time to respond, putting us in a strong position to continue to advocate on behalf of the West End and influence political decision-makers.

The survey of employers who represent over 5,000 paid positions has revealed an average loss of 20% in sales due to staff shortages as well as an average of 19% of jobs currently unfilled, with the principal reasons being cited as a pure lack of applicants (both from the UK and internationally), jobs not meeting pay expectations, and the cost of living in London.

The survey results suggest that the situation facing the hospitality sector in the West End is more dire than the national picture. UKHospitality carried out a nationwide survey of hospitality businesses earlier this year that revealed an average of 15% of positions are currently vacant and open for application, and on average, 16% of sales are being lost as a result of staff shortages.

The most common answer in response to being asked what would meaningfully help fill staff shortages was for the introduction of a visa not covered by the points-based system, specifically targeting hospitality jobs but expansion of the Youth Mobility Scheme to more countries and amending the points-based immigration system to consider sectors with acute shortages.

Employers are also calling for a national marketing campaign to promote the sector and opportunities within it, and for greater support for transport to and from work, including a roadmap for further extensions to the Night Tube and rationalising transport fares for workers in hospitality.

Ros Morgan, Chief Executive, Heart of London Business Alliance, said:

“A thriving London is good for the rest of the UK, and the West End should be at the very heart of the nation’s economic recovery.

“But, as London gets back to business, recruitment has become an existential issue facing the West End’s hospitality sector. We are seeing businesses unable to open their doors, not because of a lack of demand but because of a lack of staff. It’s like another lockdown for businesses, but this time without support from Government.

“The hospitality sector is making huge efforts to attract domestic workers, including through higher wages, but there is a real fear that the numbers just will not be enough. That’s why action is urgently needed from Government, through reforms to boost the number of overseas as well as domestic applicants.

Lack of staff is already hindering the post-pandemic recovery and so we urge the candidates aspiring to lead the Conservative Party to pledge to take the practical, pragmatic steps needed to alleviate this shortage and secure the future of the most diverse, energetic and cutting-edge destination in the world.”

We would like to thank those that took the time to fill in the survey to allow us to advocate on your behalf.

The full results of the survey can be found here.

For further information, please contact our Engagement team by emailing bob@holba.london or Communications team at elaina@holba.london.