7 Conclusions

The Scottish hospitality sector is extremely diverse, encompassing a wide range of different types of businesses and employing a diversity of demographic groups, with working arrangements varying from those pursuing a full-time career to those working on a more transitory basis, potentially part time whilst studying or to supplement their income.

While the survey aimed to capture this diversity within the sector, when the profile of those who took part was compared with data on the overall sector, there are higher levels of response from certain types of businesses. This includes those that pay the Real Living Wage and workers employed on a full-time basis and those earning more than the Real Living Wage.

These variations suggest that those workers who took part in the survey may have better experiences of the sector than the norm, and that the businesses that responded may be more committed to fair work practices than the average.

As such, if anything, the results presented in this report may paint a more positive picture of fair work in Scotland than the reality.

Many workers have a positive experience working in hospitality

Notwithstanding the potential positive skew within the sample responding to the survey, it is important to note that many of the workers taking part in the survey provided positive feedback on their overall experiences. Indeed, over half (60%) would recommend their employer, and 45% would recommend the overall sector.

Positive feedback was provided by many workers in relation to key areas related to fair work. For example, 65% felt that they had received sufficient training to do their job well, 54% stated that pay was always stable and predictable, 56% were satisfied with their hours and 54% were satisfied with their work life balance.

Some workers have less positive experiences

However, for many workers, experiences working in the hospitality sector are less positive with issues raised around a number of key areas relevant to fair work -including flexibility and predictability of hours, fairness in pay, insufficient training, poor relationships with managers, and challenges around communications and voice mechanisms.

It is notable that experiences of poor practice are much more prevalent amongst certain groups of workers including women, younger people, people with a long term health condition or disability, and those working in hospitality to earn extra money or while studying.

These differences are especially notable in relation to experiences of bullying and harassment at work, with women more than three times more likely than men to have experienced issues with co-workers, and those aged under 35 more than four times as likely, as older workers, to have experienced issues with managers.

A challenging environment for businesses

With increasing energy bills and supplier costs, nearly all businesses in the sector are experiencing significant cost pressures leaving limited reserves for investment in staffing.

Over two-thirds of businesses (71%) are facing recruitment challenges and over half (53%) are experiencing high levels of turnover. This is creating a vicious circle for the sector with hospitality’s poor reputation seen as one of the primary factors creating recruitment issues. Yet many businesses report that the main ‘knock-on’ impact of staffing shortages is existing staff having poorer experiences, required to work longer hours and less likely to receive the training they need to develop. Given the pressures on staff it is unsurprising that around half (47%) state that retaining skills within their business is difficult.

Employee and employer perspectives differ

A comparison of the feedback provided by workers and businesses taking part in the survey has illustrated discrepancies between the views of each group.

Differences exist in areas such as training, where the vast majority of businesses state that they deliver training - yet around a third of workers feel that they have not received sufficient training to do their job well.

There are also different views in relation to employee voice, with the vast majority of businesses stating that staff can express their opinions and these views can be influential on management decisions - yet less than half of workers (42%) believe that their voice is taken into account by their employer.

A further potentially concerning finding is the view expressed by around a fifth of businesses that employee attitudes are one of the biggest challenges for hospitality employers seeking to make the industry more attractive. In feedback provided by these respondents, specific references included a view that staff were often unwilling to work the hours expected or could be too easily offended. These views suggest a lack of the shared goals and mutual respect which are important in creating the positive workplace culture required to retain and motivate staff.

Additionally, a majority of employers felt that they provided a good place to work, yet both workers and employers have reported practice in the surveys that raise concerns about the consistency of application of statutory minimum standards, including grievance procedures, access to basic employment rights like pensions, annual leave, sick pay and on rest breaks between shifts.

What workers want is generally clear

When workers were asked what they would like to see changed to improve their experience of working in the hospitality sector, some of the suggestions may be relatively straightforward and achievable for employers. The most common suggestions include greater consistency in hours, more access to breaks and improved communications between staff and management.

However, other challenges will require significant focus for employers across the sector to address, for example those relating to workplace culture such as the high incidence of bullying and harassment as well as those requiring greater financial investment such as improving pay and providing more training.

Addressing the challenges

The evidence presented here will be used by the Fair Work Convention's Hospitality Inquiry Group, alongside other evidence, to form recommendations to the hospitality industry and to Scottish Government.