5 Cross cutting themes

This chapter takes the findings from the two surveys to provide a summary of the opinions provided by workers and businesses in relation to a number common themes as follows:

These themes have been selected as both surveys included relevant questions, providing perspectives from both the business and workers.

When comparing the findings from each survey, it should be noted that the degree of ‘overlap’ is limited, i.e. workers who took part in the workers survey were not necessarily employed by the businesses that took part in the business survey. However, considering the experiences of workers in hospitality alongside the views of employers helps us decern useful insights into how perceptions of the sector can vary between employers and workers.

5.1 Hours

Working hours was identified as a key issue in the surveys by both businesses and workers. For businesses, issues focused around ensuring sufficient staff availability to cover the hours of work needed, while for workers, receiving appropriate and predicable hours are essential to support both work life balance and an adequate standard of living.

71% of businesses reported problems with staff recruitment and that the most common ‘knock on’ impact of these issues was existing staff being required to work longer hours (referenced by 67%).

Also, while the majority of businesses (78%) stated that they offered one or more types of flexible working hours some cited staff shortages as a factor making it harder to implement these policies.

When businesses were asked for their view on what employers in the hospitality sector can do to make the sector more attractive, while the largest percentage mentioned pay, improving hours was the second most commonly provided response.

Hospitality workers responding to the survey expressed fairly negative views in relation to their working hours with only around half providing positive ratings for the following aspects:

Amongst those who were not satisfied with the number of hours they worked per week (28%), about half felt that they worked too many hours, and almost as many felt that they did not work enough hours (53% and 44% respectively).

Related, 28% of all workers stated that they regularly worked unpaid overtime and 29% stated that they never or only ‘sometimes’ received breaks.

Reflecting these concerns, when asked what one thing they would like to change about their working hours, the most common responses related to having more consistency and predictability in working hours (19%) and being allowed more paid breaks (11%).

“I want to work my contacted hours. I don’t even get that. I was promised more than my contact in the summer.”

“My working hours depend on the staff - many times we are understaffed so we have to work more hours, no breaks and cover more sections and jobs.”

“Split shifts are torturous, working from 7:30-16:00 then 19:00-21:00 for turndown and having to be back in work the next day sometimes as early as 7am feels inhumane.”[5]

Reflecting these general concerns amongst employees, issues relating to hours were the most common area raised by those employees who had challenged their employer about their rights at work (41% of those raising issues had concerns over hours, shift patterns or breaks).

5.2 Training

The vast majority of businesses responding to the survey stated that they delivered staff training. This was most often delivered on the job (94%), while 65% delivered training off the job, most often in-house by managers or colleagues.

However, possibly reflecting the commercial challenges faced by many businesses in the hospitality sector, only 53% of businesses had a budget for delivering training beyond mandatory requirements such as health and safety, and only 1 in 3 held regular meetings with staff to discuss training plans.

While 34% would like to increase the amount of training they deliver in future, the challenging operating environment makes this difficult for many. 57% of businesses stated that finding funding support for training was difficult, and 47% stated that high levels of staff turnover were making it difficult to retain skills.

Also, some reported that staff shortages made it difficult to dedicate time to training while rising costs made it harder to pay staff for time spent receiving training.

“Due to shortage of staff being able to dedicate time to training is often not a priority.”

“Staff needed on floor and added cost of paying staff overtime and training costs. We have a vision to deliver but it is challenging.”

The worker perspective on training was fairly negative with only 65% of hospitality workers indicating that they felt that they had received enough training to do their job well. This decreased to half of those working in the sector while studying (49%).

When training took place was also identified as a potential issue for some employees, with 31% stating that training took place outside of paid work time. Those working in cafés and restaurants and those working in the sector while studying were the most likely to state that this was the case (43% and 44% respectively).

5.3 Relationships and grievances

As explained in Section 4.8, 89% of businesses reported that they have a procedure for dealing with grievances raised by employees, despite all businesses being required to have a procedure for this.

46% of businesses stated that any grievances had been raised in the past year. The most common grievances related to pay/ terms & conditions. However, after that, top grievances related to unfair treatment/relationships with line managers and bullying or harassment at work.

This resonates with the workers survey, where 17% of workers responding rated their relationship with managers as entirely or mainly negative and 22% of employees stated that they had experienced bullying or harassment from managers.

Notably, only around a third of those who had experienced bullying or harassment from managers had reported these issues. Reasons provided for not raising these issues included lack of anyone independent to report the issues to, and low expectations on action being taken to address the problem.

“Managers were aware, would joke about it after. If you weren’t OK with it, you’d become a problem.”

Women were the most likely to report experiencing issues with the bullying or harassment, most often related to their sex. People in younger age groups were also more likely to have experienced bullying or harassment from managers, with this most often related to their sex or age.

Notably, despite most businesses stating that they have grievance procedures in place, only 36% of those who experienced bullying or harassment from managers reported the issues and, amongst those who did report the issues, just 5% felt that they were dealt with effectively.

Reflecting this finding, amongst the 38% of businesses that had taken any disciplinary action during the past year, in the vast majority of cases this was for poor performance or poor timekeeping/unauthorised absence while a much smaller percentage of cases related to either abusive or violent behaviour (10%) or sexual harassment (3%).

5.4 Employee voice

Businesses responding to the survey had a largely positive perspective on levels of engagement with employees. 68% stated that they regularly hold meetings with staff where they can express their views. This figure is not dissimilar to the 62% of workers who responded stating that their voice and opinion are heard at work.

However, there is a more significant discrepancy when considering how influential or impactful worker voice is. While the vast majority of businesses stated that the staff’s views expressed can be very or fairly influential on management decisions, just 42% of workers believe their voice is taken into account in management decisions.

Additionally, 16% indicated that despite having concerns about their rights, they had chosen to not to raise these with their employer and instead put up with the problem or left their job.

The survey results suggest that relationships with managers may create an obstacle for some employees when it comes to having effective voice in the workplace. Only 56% rated their relationship with managers as entirely or mainly positive, while 22% had personally experienced bullying or harassment from managers.

A further obstacle is the lack of engagement with trade unions; only 10% of businesses currently consult with unions to enable staff to have a voice, and only 15% are interested in having a closer relationship with unions.