HR and hospitality

Wednesday March 27, 2024

We recently launched a podcast, and this month our topic was HR in hospitality. Tracey Hudson, Executive Director at The HR Dept South Warwickshire, Rugby and North Derbyshire, is our host and she was joined by Debra Spurway and Vickie Shears.

Debra is Director at The HR Dept London City and Central, as well as Somerset, while Vickie works with Tracey across her territories. Debra has extensive experience advising hospitality businesses in London on HR matters, while Vickie formerly worked in hospitality for 30+ years. Both had plenty of insight to share.


Linking HR documentation to internal processes

Debra immediately highlighted the importance of linking your HR documentation to internal processes and health and safety. Citing the example of your licence to sell alcohol (if you have one) and how fundamental it is to you; do your policies and procedures ensure that you have someone trained and given the courage to check that customers are old enough to buy a drink?

She touched on retention at this point too. How do you take someone on a training journey from bartender to manager… what needs to be in place? Hospitality is a faster moving sector than many others and people come and go. So you need to give good staff a clear vision of where they can take their career with you.


The importance of culture… and a lesson in employment contracts

Vickie shared the sad story of how her dream of becoming the first female chef in a five-star London hotel was dashed by a toxic culture. Just 18-years-old and in her first job in a four-star hotel in Cambridge, she encountered a brigade of 30 male chefs who tormented her to such an extent in her first three months – “go and fetch a leg of salmon from the stores” and worse – that she asked the general manager to be moved front of house. What a waste of ambition!

The story has a happier ending as she went on to found a sandwich business two decades later which thrived. She eventually sold it and it still has a great reputation to this day.

One headwind that Vickie faced when she sold, though, was her employment contracts. Doing what many new SME owners do, she had originally sourced them off the Internet, so they were not bespoke to the business. When the buyers did their due diligence and discovered that the contracts entitled staff to six months’ company sick pay, it was expensive for Vickie to put right. Working in HR now, she knows that having your own contracts drafted is an essential consideration.


2024 – A big year for tips

Tracey asked about the handling of tips, and Debra reminded us that it is a big year for this topic with the Employment (Allocation of Tips) Act coming into force on 1 July 2024. This will protect workers rights to receiving tips, and particularly that 100% of tips are passed on to staff.

She stressed that employers in hospitality really need to get this right, especially as many tips are now collected through a service charge on a card machine. There are, of course, potentially tax and NI issues too.


Other topics and further help

The podcast concluded by talking about the thorny issues of overtime and its impact on National Living Wage, as well as drug and alcohol use by hospitality staff, especially ones working very long hours. You can view the full podcast here, and if you are a hospitality business owner or employer and would like a conversation about getting some expert HR support, please do get in touch.

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