The ‘toxicity’ of Brexit has been blamed for a labour shortages hitting the hospitality industry. 

Chris Frost, who chairs North Wales Tourism, said it is one of three factors impacting staffing for businesses including hotels and restaurants. 

A new report has found more than 90,000 European Union workers have left the UK’s hospitality sector in the last year, amid a huge shift in the industry’s workforce since the UK left the EU and the pandemic struck.

Mr Frost said he is not surprised at the figures, compiled by jobs site, and that the organisation he chairs has been conducting research into the loss of EU workers in the region. 

“With the toxicity surrounding Brexit, would you want to remain in the UK? Many EU workers returned home because of Covid but now don’t want to come back and there is a shortage of workers,” said Mr Frost. 

“It is one of three factors impacting on the shortage, the others are the immigration policy of the UK government and Covid.” 

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The employer, who has a hotel in Ruthin and a restaurant in Llangollen, said two Bulgarian empolyees left his businesses two years ago, due to Brexit. 

“There was so much uncertainty at that time, they weren’t sure if they would be able to remain, and they were unsure if there was racism, with local people not wanting EU workers, and it’s transpired we did need those workers.” 

Due to the easing of Covid restrictions, including social distancing which is expected to no longer be required in Wales from Saturday, Mr Frost said he anticipates demands for staff to be even greater as restaurants have been operating under capacity. 

The chair of the tourism body said he had written to Senedd Members and the region’s Conservative MPs before the pandemic, to highlight concerns about the impact of immigration policies on recruitment.

Since Brexit, foreign nationals have had to meet a salary threshold of £20,000 in some circumstances and typically around £25,000. 

“The immigration policy has set that someone coming from the EU has to be earning at a pretty high level and starting salaries in hospitality, like many other industries, are low,” said Mr Frost.

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Ruth Higgins, who runs a bed and breakfast near Caernarfon, said she is aware that larger hotels in Llandudno are struggling to recruit and said she has been told some restaurants have had to close. 

“Quite a few restaurants in Abersoch are having to close one or two days a week, when they would normally be open seven, as they can’t get the staff and have to give their workforce a break.

"It’s stopping people taking the money they should and Abersoch is badly affected.” 

She also said some staff in the industry had found new jobs and claimed some on furlough didn’t want to return. 

“I think workers in general, an awful lot, don’t want to go back to work. 

“There’s a huge shortage of chefs and a lot have found other work, maybe for Tesco. They are more sociable hours, and chefing is hot, hard work. 

“Some on furlough will think they’ve amounted a nice little amount of money and feel they don’t need to work, in six months to a year’s time I think there will be a lot of people looking for jobs.” 

The Federation of Small Business Wales says members have, anecdotally, reported recruitment struggles are in part due to the loss of EU workers. 

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Ben Cottam of FSB Wales said: “In some sectors – predominantly hospitality – we have heard multiple reports that businesses are struggling to recruit the staff that they need to operate fully.

"We are worried about the impact that this will have on Wales’ economic recovery if businesses cannot be empowered to work at their fullest capacity. 

“The reports we’ve heard is that roles of all levels are short. For example, a restaurant in Mid Wales couldn’t recruit a head chef for some time and restaurants in Cardiff couldn’t find front of house staff. It’s a really widespread problem.” 

He said the ‘pingdemic’ - with staff having to isolate if they’ve been in contact with someone who has tested positive - is causing further problems for businesses if they are already operating with fewer staff. 

FSB Wales had also provided support to its members to help staff apply to the EU Settlement Scheme.

It closed at the end of June but is still accepting late applications. 

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