Workers’ Experiences in Hospitality show importance of the Convention’s Fair Work Inquiry

The Fair Work Convention today published new research which examines workers’ experiences in the hospitality industry in Scotland, confirming the importance of the ongoing Fair Work Inquiry in the sector.

The research, conducted by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR), focuses on the perspectives and lived experiences of hospitality workers. The research is a valuable contribution to the current Fair Work In Hospitality Inquiry which  is bringing together workers and businesses from across the industry and is due to conclude in 2023.

The research demonstrates the diversity of experiences – good and bad – for workers in the sector.

Positively, workers often expressed satisfaction about their everyday relationships with customers. Some workers also valued the opportunity for progression that work in hospitality offered to them.

Despite this, the research also identified areas of concern. Some workers spoke of the strains they endured due to low pay and work that was physically and mentally demanding, and which often came with long and anti-social hours. Some workers in the study also faced unpredictable hours and pay and others had experienced bullying and harassment. Many workers lacked an effective voice at work and talked of the need to stand up for themselves even to access basic employment rights like breaks, sick pay or paid annual leave. Younger workers and migrant workers in the study found it more difficult to challenge poor practice and at times struggled to access their existing rights.

The COVID-19 pandemic and current worker shortages also largely intensified these poorer experiences, particularly in terms of having to work longer and unwanted hours, feeling under increased pressure in the workplace and being unable to take adequate breaks. The ongoing Fair Work in Hospitality Inquiry is, however, also finding examples of positive practice in the industry with many employers now taking steps to improve pay and recognising the importance of fair work and supporting workers’ wellbeing, suggesting that the current challenges can also present an opportunity for the sector.

Overall, the research provides important evidence for the Fair Work Convention’s Hospitality Inquiry and while it highlights a range of challenges, it also shows the commitment many workers have to working in hospitality and the industry’s potential to offer good career opportunities to workers in communities across Scotland.

Katharine Stockland, Senior Social Researcher at NIESR, said:

“Our research provides examples of workers’ experiences in hospitality. The research presents a diversity of voices and experiences, including from younger and older workers, women, new migrants, and workers in rural locations. The research also considered the experiences of those on zero hours contracts, and other insecure workers.”

“We found that the flexibility afforded to people working in hospitality could both be a blessing, by helping people to manage their busy lives, and a curse, leading to detrimental impacts on the financial, personal and social wellbeing of hospitality workers. Our research covers the voices of those who enjoyed the customer and colleague interactions, and found opportunities for progression and to develop their skills, as well as those who struggled with the physical and mental demands of their work, and who felt exploited in the industry.”

Fair Work Convention Co-Chair’s Mary Alexander and Patricia Findlay said:

“It is encouraging that employers, unions and workers are coming together to undertake our inquiry into the hospitality industry in Scotland, given that this research highlights the need to improve fair work outcomes and promote good working conditions for everyone.

The hospitality industry is a major contributor to the Scottish economy. With a high level of vacancies impacting employers across the industry alongside the cost of living crisis, there has never been a more important time to embed fair work in the hospitality industry in Scotland.”

The Fair Work Convention will be taking further evidence from people who work in Hospitality in early 2023 and will be hosting roundtable discussion sessions with businesses and workers to hear more about the challenges facing the industry.

A qualitative investigation into the experiences of workers in the hospitality sector in Scotland – Full Report

Executive Summary