Ignoring calls for workplace flexibility could cost catering industry £448m a year

Restaurant kitchen

The hospitality and catering sectors could risk £448m a year in economic output by 2023 if employers do not fully embrace flexibility, a new study has revealed.

The report, developed by workforce management expert Quinyx in collaboration with Development Economics and Censuswide, maps existing hospitality and catering workforce trends and worker sentiment to estimate the potential scale and output of flexible working in the UK hospitality sector in the future.

The research found that, despite an increase in flexible working in the UK in recent years, the level of dissatisfaction among hospitality and catering workers around the flexibility of their current working arrangements is high – meaning there is untapped demand for flexible working.

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Quinyx calculated that by embracing and implementing more flexible working arrangements in the future, UK hospitality and catering businesses could generate an output of £21.245 billion per year through flexible working by 2023. This is compared to an output of £20.797 billion per year if existing flexible working trends continued.

The additional output would be garnered through factors such as reduction of staff churn and higher productivity – thanks to working schedules being tailored to employees, and workers being happier and more motivated as a result.

While ONS statistics show that an additional 1.3 million workers enjoyed flexible working arrangements in 2017 compared to 2011, 70% of workers in hospitality and catering say there are calls for increased flexibility, whether that’s from employees, employers, unions or customers.

16% of UK hospitality and catering workers say that a lack of flexibility makes them feel isolated from friends and family, while 12% say it is having or has had a negative impact on their health and wellbeing. 12% of UK hospitality and catering workers say that they would be more productive if given more flexible working opportunities.

Erik Fjellborg, CEO and Founder of Quinyx, said: “Widening skills gaps, a lag in productivity and Brexit on the horizon mean British hospitality and catering businesses are struggling to find, hire and retain the workers they need. Flexible working is an untapped solution to the UK’s biggest hospitality and catering business challenges: the more employees are able to choose the right schedule for them, the happier – and therefore more productive – they’ll be. But, it’s clear that the current mindset needs to change.

“Flexibility does not need to mean increased costs and logistical nightmares; in fact, with the right tools in place, it’s simple and economical. And by increasing flexibility, hospitality and catering employers will give workers a voice and a choice, ultimately increasing productivity, retention and their overall performance.”

The research also found that special attention needs to be paid to some of the most flexibly disadvantaged groups, including women, younger workers and blue collar workers.

Between 2011 and 2017, zero-hours contracts in the UK increased by 674%, with prevalence among women, the under 20s and workers in the hospitality and catering sectors. For the latter group, zero-hours contracts are four times more common than in other sectors.

Flexitime arrangements are well below the national average among caring & leisure, elementary occupations and process & plant operatives – typically blue collar workers.

Of the managers, directors and senior officials who work flexibly, 61% have a formal flexitime contract – compared to just 21% of flexible workers in elementary occupations.

An increase in formal flexitime arrangements in recent years has been largely enjoyed by men rather than women – with the latter fuelling 71% of this growth. And, only one in four of those working flexibly under the age of 20 enjoy flexitime arrangements, compared to a 42% average.

The research also uncovered barriers for achieving greater flexibility. 73% of UK hospitality and catering workers say they face barriers when it comes to achieving greater flexibility at work, with the reactions of their employers top of their concerns.

18% of hospitality and catering workers worry that a request for greater flexibility would negatively impact their career progression, and another 13% say their manager would react badly.

Over a third of UK hospitality and catering workers believe that the best way of encouraging businesses to increase flexibility is through incentives such as tax breaks, followed by legislation to force all companies to offer flexible working.

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Andrew Seymour

The author Andrew Seymour

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