LRA Confirms Spike in Calls from Distressed Hospitality Sector

Published on 22 December 2021
Added by Keelin Kelly

NI’s Labour Relations Agency (LRA) has recorded a spike in calls from the local hospitality sector following the emergence of the Omicron variant and tightening of public health restrictions and introduction of new guidance to respond to this.

Calls to the LRA’s Workplace Information Service (WIS) from the hospitality sector have escalated over the last two weeks.  The overwhelming majority have been distress calls from employers and employees who are struggling to manage resources.  Key issues include the implementation of the covid passport and large-scale cancellations/no-shows resulting from a drop in consumer confidence.

WIS is a frontline service team of nine experts offering information and guidance around employment rights and responsibilities in Northern Ireland.  It’s a free, independent, and confidential service which aims to save the relationship between the employer and employee.

With the hospitality industry already described as being in ‘freefall’ by its representative body, Hospitality Ulster, the LRA confirmed that it has been inundated with calls from owners, HR managers and company directors who are at loss as to how to recruit, reassure and retain staff at the moment.

Employees too are turning to the Workplace Information Service to seek guidance around their working hours, job security and increasing uncertainty with the public health situation at what is normally the sector’s busiest time of the year.

“With thousands of people depending on hospitality for a living, our team of experts have again found themselves at the frontline of the pandemic,” said Fionnuala Davey, Manager of the Workplace Information Service.

“A few months ago, the majority of calls we received related to furlough and crossed all sectors but now the focus has completely switched. There is a very high level of concern and doubt, particularly from those working in restaurants, pubs and hotels with most unsure as to their employment rights in what is regarded as a very fluid and challenging time.”

The LRA’s vitally important phone-based service handled almost 23,000 calls over a 12 month period which generated 50,000 queries on employment rights and best practice.

In addition to being a source of up-to-date information around employment legislation, the team provides guidance on rights and responsibilities and possible courses of action, as well as signposting to other organisations, helplines or bodies for support.

“The past 20+ months have proved the value of the information services provided by the LRA.  Our workload may have escalated but this only reflects the extra demands and evolving needs of the labour market at a time of great flux and change,” added Fionnuala Davey.  

The LRA is expecting a busy Christmas and New Year as the effects of Omicron are felt in workplaces across NI.  The Workplace Information Service can be contacted on 03300 555 300.