How can having too many staff be one of our biggest challenges now?

Never in my career of working with the tourism industry did I think I would be helping so many hospitality and tourism businesses reduce their staffing levels.  As an independent HR Advisor I don’t just work with hospitality and tourism any more, but having completed my HND in Hotel Management in 1989 I worked in tourism up until 2011.  I finally moved on from my role as Industry Services Director at Cumbria Tourism to set up my own HR & Training business (People Junction), but I am still absolutely passionate about the industry and its success. It’s in my blood!


Staffing shortages

For years we have worked hard to promote the industry to school leavers, job seekers and the semi-retired encouraging them to join the industry. Despite all our efforts we never quite had enough staff and almost all the time we would be recruiting for at least one position in our businesses.  Our biggest success has been attracting and adopting our overseas workers, welcoming them into our giant tourism family.  Only up until recently we were lobbying the Government to ensure the immigration policy didn’t restrict our industry from recruiting from overseas.


Closed for business

Then the weekend of March 20th saw all of our businesses close just like that to prevent the spread of Coronavirus.  We also learned a new word in March – Furlough – what a strange word, but it has been a godsend to many businesses employing staff.  It meant we could avoid unpaid lay off or redundancies and everything would be ok, wouldn’t it?  We didn’t expect Government to be so generous with their 80% contribution and for so long – but unfortunately it still isn’t enough for our industry and the impact of Coronavirus will mean many jobs in the industry will be lost in the coming months.


Our biggest asset

Our staff are our biggest asset and there will be a time in the future when we need them (and more) to come back and work for us.  The staycation will be strong and we need to be ready to show our brilliant hospitality off to our guests once again.  So, we need to look after our most important asset understanding that everyone is going through a tough time at the moment.


Keep in touch with your staff

With technology providing so many ways to keep in touch with staff, it’s important to let them know they haven’t been forgotten just because they aren’t in the business.  Drop them a line on email, send them a text, set up a group on WhatsApp or pick up the phone to check in with them and make sure they are ok.  Because they are furloughed and can’t work doesn’t mean you can’t contact them.  There is lots of great stuff happening and I love that Lakes Distillery sent all their staff a Pink Grapefruit Gin this week just in time for the Bank Holiday VE Day celebrations.  A client I work with shares a video message from their CEO each week with an update of how things are going, and team get togethers are taking place on Zoom everywhere.


To train or not to train?

You can ask your staff to complete training whilst furloughed and there is plenty of free online training on offer right now.  Check out UK Hospitality’s training platform HERE  or take a look HERE for further free training.



Staff on Furlough will still accrue annual leave.  You can ask staff to take holidays during furlough as long as you top up their salary to 100% and you give them double the notice, so for one weeks holiday you would need to give them two week’s notice.  It could help you manage holiday requests when staff do return, it will save you money in the long run, but you also need to consider that the staff can’t really do anything whilst on holiday in lockdown so try and keep it to a minimum.


Health and wellbeing

These are such strange times, by the very nature of the jobs we do, we are a group of people that (in the main) like people and now we are told we should avoid them!  It’s hard and brings so many personal challenges with it.  Caring for our employees is important and finding resources to support them is key.  It could be particularly difficult for those living in staff accommodation at the moment, confined to a small room.  There are online mental health training courses that you or your line managers could do to help spot the signs more quickly and understand what to do, as well as lots of online support for individuals. Click HERE for more information.


Acknowledging those that are still working for us

It’s ironic – we’ve had some of the best weather we could have hoped for during lockdown and this has undoubtedly helped those that have been furloughed.  But we mustn’t forget those that are still coming into work for us each day keeping the business going whilst their colleagues are being paid 80 or100% of their salary to “enjoy the sunshine”.  We need to make sure we recognise this when they might have days wondering why they couldn’t be furloughed instead.


The not knowing

The hardest thing for us all is the not knowing – what will Boris’s announcement mean for us on Sunday?  When will we be reopening and what will this mean for our business and staff then?  It is almost certain that in most businesses staffing numbers will be reduced, but what are our options?  Will furlough help us retain more staff and if so, for how long?

It’s important that we follow employment legislation in relation to lay-off, short-time working and redundancy, just because staff have been furloughed it doesn’t mean we can send them a letter informing them that there is no job to return to.

When we bring staff back, we need to ensure we comply with the Health and Safety at Work Act providing a safe working environment for staff and customers – what will this look like and how will staff feel coming back to work?


My next blog will talk about the next steps, but if in the meantime you need a little help, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.


For further information

Contact The PR Team on
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