The cost-of-living crisis has hit everybody very hard.

For hospitality employers who are prepared to go the extra mile and help their team members through this challenging time, the cost-of-living crisis could represent a golden opportunity.

Let’s look at the facts.

A recent YouGov survey conducted for the employment website Indeed showed that 25-to-39-year-olds are feeling the cost-of-living pressure most of all, with 17% looking for new employment to support them through the crisis.

We won’t get hung up on all those mind-bending percentages because the maths isn’t important.

What’s important to think about is this:

When you consider the problems that many hospitality employers are already facing when trying to retain their present staff and recruit new ones, doesn’t not offering support to our team members through this horrendous economic crisis feel like a major ‘shooting ourselves in the foot’ error of judgement?

After all, let’s not forget that one of the biggest aims of Hospitality Apprenticeships Week 2022, held only a few short weeks ago, was to showcase “what working in our amazing sector means, and the career opportunities it represents… not only helping to solve the current staff shortages but futureproofing the industry by attracting the brightest and best.”

That’s what Kate Nicholls, Chief of UKHospitality, said. But how will hospitality employers ever solve their staff shortages and attract the brightest and best if they’re not prepared to take better care of the people who are already working for them?

Fortunately, a few hospitality employers are getting it right.

  • PizzaExpress is giving its 10,000 staff four free pizzas a month in a new initiative called ‘On the House’. That’s on top of the incentives the company already has in place, which include employees dining for free while they’re at work and receiving 50% off meals (including family and friends meals when they’re dining with the employee) outside of work.
  • The boutique hotel group, The Eden Hotel Collection, have given their employees a pay rise of up to 14% in response to the cost-of-living crisis and recruitment challenges. The pay boost has benefited more than 350 staff across the UK and has been weighted to include those at the lower end of the pay scale. They’ve also launched a new Employee Wellbeing Strategy and the first information session they held for their staff was focused on financial wellbeing and cost-of-living support.

If two hotels are looking for staff, one of them is offering highly competitive pay and benefits like The Eden Hotel, and the other isn’t offering their team members any support at all, which hotel will the best and brightest candidates want to work for?

If two restaurants offer the same pay rate but, while one offers no incentives, the other offers free meals at work and a healthy discount on meals outside of work, which restaurant will receive the most applications whenever they have a vacancy?

It’s a bit of a no-brainer question, isn’t it? The answer is obvious.

What can you do to support your team members through the cost-of-living crisis?

At Prime, we always advise our clients to:

  • Offer the best rates of pay possible.
  • Provide uniforms and launder them free of charge.
  • Provide meals when staff are on duty. For example, some of our clients allow staff to come into work early or stay later so they can have breakfast or dinner in the hotel staff restaurant.
  • Offer staff general guidance on how to manage their cost-of-living, educating them on any benefits you offer, and providing an ‘open door’ so they feel comfortable talking about their financial concerns and you can direct them towards independent money and debt guidance like the Money Advice Service or their local Citizens Advice organisation.

What other forms of support could you offer?

  • Some companies (like John Lewis, Virgin Media 02, and HSBC) are giving their employees extra payments to help with the rising cost of living. Of course, these are big non-hospitality businesses that are arguably better positioned to afford it, but could you offer a one-off bonus in cash or shopping vouchers to help your team members and show them how much they’re valued?
  • How about a comprehensive employee benefits package including essentials like dental cover, health screening, life insurance, and occupational sick pay?
  • Or discounts on gym memberships, demonstrating your commitment to your team member’s health and wellbeing?
  • Restaurant vouchers, vouchers to help with the weekly shopping bill, and gift cards or cashback for popular retailers and services are also worth considering.

Remember, the cost-of-living support you offer your team members can be something other than financial.

  • Some businesses are offering on-site childcare facilities.
  • Some are training their team members to become Mental Health First Aiders, so they can identify and assist any staff who are experiencing mental health issues. Or you could provide an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) helpline offering confidential work, health and lifestyle advice 24/7, 365 days a year.
  • Suppose your team members need help managing travel costs. In that case, you could implement a ride-share scheme or organise a company van that picks team members up as a group before their shift and then takes them back to a mutually convenient location at the end of the day.
  • You could provide electric vehicle charging points and secure bicycle storage so your team members can find alternative ways to travel to work and save on fuel. Alternatively, you could offer a ‘salary sacrifice’ scheme so they can spread the cost of expensive items like season ticket loans and car or bike payments over several months, helping them manage their money better by taking the payments in increments off their gross income.
  • Some employers, like John Lewis and Waitrose, are offering their staff free food over the winter and doubling their financial assistance funds to help team members with their bills.
  • Depending on the nature of your business, flexible working might also be possible, either by allowing people to work from home for one or two days a week (if their role allows it) or letting them work the days and hours that are most convenient to them.

There’s no getting around it, though…

Paying your staff a competitive wage or, at the very least, a real Living Wage is by far the best way to help them weather the cost-of-living storm, retain more staff (and attract new ones), and boost your reputation as an employer.

The Real Living Wage is an independent calculation based on the minimum a worker needs to cover the basic costs of living. It is set by the Real Living Wage Foundation, which, on 22 September 2022, announced that the new hourly rates for the Real Living Wage will be £10.90 across the UK (a £1.00 rise on the previous figure) and £11.95 in London, which is an increase of 90p.

Unfortunately, the Real Living Wage is only voluntary and currently paid by just 11,000 employers across the UK. When Katherine Chapman, director of the Living Wage Foundation, announced the new hourly rates, she said, “With living costs rising so rapidly, millions are facing an awful ‘heat or eat’ choice this winter – that’s why a real Living Wage is more vital than ever.

“We know that the Living Wage is good for employers as well as workers; that’s why the real Living Wage must continue to be at the heart of solutions to tackle the cost-of-living crisis.”

Remember, the Real Living Wage is the minimum a worker needs to cover their basic costs of living. If it is something you still need to introduce, we strongly encourage you to do so. If possible, we’d encourage you to pay your team members even more as well as implementing some of the other support suggested in this article.

Without your team members, your business wouldn’t exist. That’s why it is vital to do everything you can to support them through this cost-of-living crisis. It’s also why this cost-of-living crisis gives you the golden opportunity to rise head and shoulders above your competition by actively demonstrating what a conscientious, supportive and forward-thinking employer you are – the kind of employer that your current people will be proud to work for and future candidates will clamour to work for.

Trust us, that will give you a massive advantage the next time you’re hiring new staff.

To find your next ideal team member, all you’ve got to do is contact our friendly expert advisors on 020 7580 4398 or email and we’ll do the rest. We’re looking forward to working with you soon!

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