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‘Pingdemic’: The latest blow for the hospitality sector

Author: Matthew Przyborowski

Published date: 2021/07

Prs   Pingdemic

The pandemic expanded our vernacular with terms like ‘social distancing’, ‘key workers’, ‘lockdown’ and now ‘pingdemic’. In recent weeks, notifications from the UK’s official Covid-19 app have increased exponentially, with 600,000 people receiving the dreaded ‘ping’ this week alone.

More and more sectors are being affected by high numbers of employee absences and are calling on the government to step in and help manage the situation. It’s the latest in a long line of setbacks for the hospitality industry, with leaders estimating that as many as 20% of staff are being forced to isolate at any one time. Many businesses are seeing entire teams pinged at once, meaning they, once again, must close their doors to the public. 

This week, the government released a list of 24 sectors where fully vaccinated workers may be exempt from isolation if they are told to quarantine. Unfortunately, hospitality workers have not been included, leading to warnings from industry body UKHospitality that there could be a “summer of venue closures”.

Hospitality firms were already struggling to find enough staff before being hit with absences caused by the app. The latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) confirmed such difficulty, reporting an estimated 102,000 hospitality job vacancies between April and June, compared to the 19,000 recorded in December to February.

Real Time Information (RTI) data revealed that while the number of payrolled employees in the hospitality sector increased to over 1.8 million in June, from a low of 1.7 million in March, it remained below the pre-pandemic 2 million recorded in February 2020. 

In June, UKHospitality released a 12-point plan in a bid to tackle the current staffing crisis. It features short-term and long-term actions that aim to boost collaboration between the industry and the government, improve perceptions of the sector as an employer and introduce new qualifications. 

Upon its release, CEO of UKHospitality, Kate Nicholls, said: “Staff at all levels play a crucial role delivering world-class hospitality at the very heart of their communities, with employers large and small offering high-class training schemes, apprenticeships and career development pathways. 

“However, it’s clear that we need to attract new people to our sector and highlight the benefits of a job or career in hospitality. Prior to the pandemic, we employed 3.2m people and were the third-largest private-sector employer in the UK. By working closely with the government on implementing this plan, the sector can restore confidence and bounce back even stronger, so hospitality is once again seen as a dynamic and exciting sector of growth, and a provider of fulfilling careers that will help power the UK’s economic and social recovery.”

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