Hotels, restaurants and pubs plan hiring spree amid Brexit fears

Hotels, restaurants, pubs and bars are preparing to hire at the fastest pace in a year, with many being forced to act due to growing fears of an exodus of migrant workers as Britain leaves the European Union.

Despite a downturn in consumer spending forcing restaurant chains to close outlets en masse, the hospitality sector is expecting a busier period for hiring staff than any other part of the economy over the coming three months.

According to a poll of 2,102 employers across nine different industry sectors by the recruitment firm ManpowerGroup, which is used by the Bank of England as an early indicator for changes in the jobs market, companies overall are at their most optimistic about hiring staff for more than a year.

A net balance of 6% said they were planning to increase staff levels rather than make cuts over the coming three months, led by hiring in the hospitality sector, where a balance of +16% of firms running hotels, pubs and restaurants say they need more staff.

James Hick, the managing director of ManpowerGroup Solutions, said the findings represented a “definite direct link” to EU workers leaving the UK.

“Normally you would link hiring intentions to growth, however this time we’re looking at a declining sector,” he said. “Our view on the data is that it shows how desperate employers are to fill vacancies in an industry that is heavily dependent on immigration.”

The report comes as the Jamie’s Italian restaurant chain is closing a third of its sites and Byron Burger is shutting up to 20 branches as part of a rescue plan. As many as a quarter of the 3 million staff in the hospitality industry are EU nationals and there have been repeat warnings of an exodus after Brexit that could lead to massive gaps in the workforce.

According to official government figures, there have been early signs of EU workers leaving Britain since the referendum. Net migration to Britain has fallen by the largest amount since records began, according to the Office for National Statistics, with EU nationals accounting for three-quarters of those who chose to return to their native country.