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Duties of hospitality – We must protect our workers

The recent reports of workers being sexually harassed at the Presidents Club has put the hospitality sector under the microscope. Let’s be clear, this was an appalling incident. Any decent human being would find it unacceptable. But also it offended me as a recruiter. No one should be subjected to the type of behaviour alleged in the article and no recruiter or recruitment agency should facilitate that environment. As an industry, recruiters send thousands of people each week into venues, hotels, restaurants, and clubs across the UK. It means that we have a moral responsibility to ensure that what happened last week is eradicated.

But we also need to be careful not to condemn an entire industry. Most large-scale hospitality events are efficiently run by highly regulated companies who take their responsibilities seriously. Great customer service is the fundamental principle that the hospitality is built on, and for most employers this is the sole focus of their hiring intentions. But it is also an industry that interacts with the public and as such is open to outside influences.
As recruiters we have an obligation to our temporary workers. A responsibility that must go beyond general health and safety legislation. If we are putting people into work, they have a right to expect that they will be treated in a decent way.

That is why it is essential recruiters put in safeguards.
1) It starts with ensuring that the environments we place people in are safe and not open to abuse.
2) The training we provide our temporary workers must include advice on how to deal with, and report, uncomfortable situations.
3) Post-shift debriefs offer an informal way to ensure immediate issues are uncovered.
4) Formal quality assurance reviews need to be undertaken with both candidate and client to identify any issues or concerning patterns.
5) An anonymous hotline should be installed to give workers and even clients the opportunity to report issues without fear. This should form part of a published complaints procedure.
It’s also important to leverage technology to combat the issue. For example, we have developed a mobile app which integrates feedback and reporting facilities. This means we can collect data in real-time and react quickly to any situations without them escalating.

Getting this right should be a priority for the entire recruitment industry. Most of us will have likely worked in hospitality during our lives and will have children, siblings and loved ones who are equally as likely to enter the industry at some point. We have a moral duty to ensure that it is safe and respectful for them too. But it is also a
commercial argument, since an industry where people do not feel safe is hardly great for business.

Recruiters also need to be honest. As a business Berkeley Scott booked out more than 1.2 million hours of shifts last year. Ultimately there were, in a very small handful of cases, some issues. Recruiters need to put their hands up and learn. But that should also be put in context; they in no way came close to the disgraceful reports from the Presidents Club.

Consequently, we have worked hard on identifying the issues early, putting in processes to back this up and above all acting objectively and fairly in reaching a conclusion. And we must also continue to involve the likes of the REC in combating this issue.

Of course, most clients and employers are law abiding, straight down the line, organisations who are as horrified as the recruitment industry is at the goings on at the Presidents Club. However, it is beholden on us as an industry to ensure that any scandals of the past are never repeated in the future.

 

By: Liam Humphreys – Managing Director of Berkeley Scott.  Hospitality recruitment