On Wednesday 14th April we hosted an online panel to explore whether good work can be prioritised in hospitality’s recovery from Covid-19. We were joined by panelists from BrewDog, BAFTA 195 Piccadilly, the Institute for Employment Studies, HR rewired and Helen and Malek, Employment Academy graduates. Plus, an audience of more than 50 of our members, funders, supporters, and Employer Partners.

As a hospitality business, we understand the challenges that the sector faces as it rebuilds from the Covid-19 pandemic, and the challenges to providing good work that the last 12-months have exacerbated. But we also understand how vital good work is in breaking the cycle of homelessness. We know that without good work, people will not be able to build stable homes and good networks. We also know that without providing good work to employees, many businesses won’t be sustainable in the future.

Our panelists discussed and debated themes around values led business (and why businesses that aren’t values led will be left behind by customers and employees), why good work is good for customer service, and the work that the hospitality sector still needs to do around progression, particularly for minority groups.

Graduates from our Employment Academy, Malek and Helen, shared their experiences of good work in the hospitality sector, at Pophams and The Wolseley – and told us how important extra support provided to them by the House and their employers has been to giving them stability over the last 12 months.

We heard from Stephen Bevan from the Institute of Employment Studies, that Malek and Helen’s lived experiences of the transformative effect of good work are borne out in the policy work that he is doing. Whilst it seems obvious that precarious work is bad for employee mental health and can often lead to a spiral of low work and low pay, policy and research also shows that it’s bad for business too. For businesses, good work delivers good health, high levels of ‘discretionary effort’, high performance and good retention rates.

Karen Bates, People Director at BrewDog can evidence this in the good work approach that BrewDog takes. BrewDog has been a living wage employer since 2014 and has a range of quirky benefits for all staff, including a ‘unicorn fund’ (where 10% of profits are paid equally to everyone working in the business). In 2020, like many hospitality businesses, BrewDog’s profits were severely impacted by the pandemic, but maintaining living wage employer status remained a priority. This has led to better staff engagement, but it’s also something BrewDog’s customers love too. Like the House of St Barnabas, BrewDog don’t have a service charge because all staff are paid a fair living wage, but customers tip staff generously because the service they get is so good.

Julian Shaw, Director at BAFTA 195 Piccadilly, a London Living Wage employer and House of St Barnabas Employer Partner, thinks the pandemic will create a buyers’ market for employees. As the hospitality sector reopens and looks to rebuild its staff teams, employers need to be competitive – he’s seen a lot of hospitality people leave London and the UK, exacerbated by both Covid-19 and Brexit. This is a challenge Julian himself is having to contend with as BAFTA 195 prepares to reopen after a two-year refurbishment. He predicts that consumers will be looking for something different from hospitality, a hybrid between physical and virtual events, and that building these experiences and the teams that can deliver them, will create better progression opportunities for hospitality employees.

Shereen Daniels, Managing Director at HR rewired and advocate for anti-racism in business, highlights the need for the hospitality sector to create better equity amongst its employees. Shereen previously worked for hospitality giants Greene King and Caffe Nero and was the only black senior employee in both. She highlights recently released unemployment statistics, which show that young black workers have been hit disproportionately hard during the pandemic, with more than 40% unemployed – three times worse than white workers of the same age. Hospitality has a lot of work to do for progression if you’re not in the majority. But this isn’t news, this is something we’ve known for a long time. Conversations like the ones between are panelists are vital to creating change.

Businesses need to embrace and focus on the changing expectations of candidates and employees. All our panelists agreed that many people have stopped and considered their expectations over the last year. They want to know what a business is doing about sustainability and the climate, they want to know that the businesses they are spending money with are actively anti-racist, and they want to know how a business is treating its employees.

The hospitality sector needs to prioritise pay, progression, stability, and equity to meet the demands of future consumers. But it also needs to do these things to offer employees good work, and to attract and retain staff. Without doing these things, hospitality businesses risk being left behind.

Huge thanks to our panelists for kicking this series off with transparency, knowledge and experience. This event is the beginning of a conversation and the first in a series to bring people together from across sectors and perspectives to address issues around good work. Future events will explore the importance of good work, practical steps to implementing good work across sectors and the deep impact that good work has. Details of upcoming events will be shared in our members’ newsletter, on our website and on our social media channels.

Find out more about becoming a member of the House of St Barnabas here. If you can help us in our pursuit of good work, get in touch with our Impact team here.