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It’s time to break boundaries to solve the staffing crisis

Published:  21 October, 2022

Unemployment levels are at a record low, while the total number of job vacancies in May-June 2022 was 1.3 million, according to the latest figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Low unemployment is undeniably a good thing, but it does mean fewer people are on the job ladder, and the evidence suggests the hospitality industry has been disproportionately affected. Hospitality recruiters have found it tough post-pandemic, especially when many workers face the prospect of working longer hours due to staff shortages.

The hospitality sector accounts for 174,000 of the aforementioned vacancies, thus creating chronic staff shortages for businesses already struggling with rising costs and consumer cutbacks.

However, there is some light at the end of the tunnel thanks to Only a Pavement Away – the charity aiding prison leavers, veterans and those facing homelessness back into employment within the hospitality business.

In the August edition of Harpers, Greg Mangham, CEO of Only A Pavement Away, discussed how the charity’s employment programme works in partnership with hospitality employers to facilitate training and development and offer additional financial support to those who need it to overcome any barriers to employment.

More than 100 hospitality operators already use Only A Pavement Away to recruit new talent, but given the widespread issues with staffing in the industry, there is no reason why this figure shouldn’t be much higher.

Mangham says: “After two years of disrupted trading, it is so frustrating to witness the staffing crisis now constraining the industry’s recovery to which I have dedicated most of my working life.

“Meanwhile, the number of people facing homelessness in the UK has risen by 50% over the past five years. These issues are unacceptable, and Only A Pavement Away is determined to help.”

In a significant boost for the charity’s cause, hospitality data specialist KAM has conducted research to highlight staffing issues in the industry.

In a nationwide survey of leading operators, which polled both users and non-users of Only A Pavement Away, three in four businesses admitted that hiring the right staff is more of a challenge now than it was 12 months ago, with one in two also finding staff retention more difficult compared to a year ago.

The research shows that, on average, 74% of hospitality operators have several vacancies across front-of-house roles, while 87% have a high number of vacancies within their back-of-house staff.

As a result, businesses face continued disruption, with many having to drastically reduce trading hours, ask existing staff to work longer hours or close completely.

Crucial support

Only A Pavement Away, which celebrates its fourth birthday this month, now connects an average of three people facing homelessness each week into stable, purposeful employment within the hospitality industry.

With recent figures from Crisis – the UK national charity for people experiencing homelessness – predicting that 66,000 more people could become homeless by 2024, the need for support has never been more crucial.

The KAM research also reflected on why employers are hesitant to hire a candidate who might be facing homelessness.

When asked about the preconceptions they had around hiring vulnerable people before joining the Only A Pavement Away programme, the findings showed that 59% felt those coming through the programme wouldn’t be able to cope with the demands of the job, 59% felt they would be unreliable, and 29%
felt they would be more likely to use drugs and/or alcohol while at work.

However, these negative preconceptions are being challenged, with the programme showing that
views are changing. Seventy per cent disagree that candidates wouldn’t be able to cope with the demands of the job, a lower 50% feel they would be unreliable and 60% disagree that candidates are more likely to use drugs and/or alcohol while at work.

Paul, who found a pathway out of homelessness through the Only A Pavement Away employment programme and now works as a goods receiver at The Ivy Asia in Chelsea, says: “Since Only A Pavement Away helped me back into full-time employment, I’ve got money, I can pay my bills, buy myself clothing, and have found myself a place to live.

“My life is stable and secure now, which it had not been for a long time. With help from the charity, I have gained so much confidence and can finally believe in myself. Best of all, I can now work with my biggest passion in life, food.”

Mangham adds: “The insight gleaned from our recent survey in partnership with KAM indicates that recruitment is still a relentless challenge for hospitality businesses. But we can be a part of the solution.

“As we mark our fourth birthday, we are delighted with the work we have done so far to place over 250 people back into employment, adding an approximate value of £5m to the economy and ultimately transforming the lives of so many people.

“Our ambition is to place 1,000 people back into work by June 2024, and we are on track to do so. We urge potential employers to get in touch to see how
we can make a difference to their businesses, and ask our wonderful supporters to keep donating, as you can be part of the change.”

To find out more about Only a Pavement Away, to donate, or to get your business involved, visit: or email Karen Wallin, head of marketing & fundraising: