'Remote online training could save lives'.
Faced with a shortage of almost 200,000 staff, the UK’s hospitality sector is on a hiring spree. Yet, this could severely risk the health and safety of consumers, says an environmental health expert.
Following lockdown restrictions coming to an end and a staffing crisis brought on by the pandemic, online recruiter Indeed recently reported that during June 2021 the number of job postings in the hospitality industry was up to 29% higher than pre-pandemic recruiting levels in February 2020.
The demand for staff comes as the need for table-only service has increased, outdoor seating has expanded and an improved confidence amongst consumers has rapidly surged eating-out bookings. In addition, there is fierce competition across hotels, pubs, restaurants, cafés and takeaways all looking for temporary and full-time recruits as they have to cut hours to operate.
But the speed in which both waiting on and back-of-house staff are being placed into new roles could mean that food safety standards are in jeopardy and could risk consumer safety, says Kirstie Jones an environmental health expert of Leicester-based Navitas Safety.
“For many previously furloughed employees it may have been months since they have been at work, and with staff shortages across the sector there is a vast number of new recruits who have no prior experience working in a food-related environment.
“Not only has Covid-19 meant regulations have changed dramatically since pre-pandemic, but it is imperative that businesses actively train staff and update their safety procedures as they hire new people, particularly as new laws, digitalised menus and table service come into play.”
Kirstie added that as of October this year, Natasha’s Law will be enforced across the UK, meaning that all businesses that sell foods which are pre-packed for direct sale (PPDS), will need to clearly label all ingredients and allergen information.
The law was brought in following a tragic incident whereby Natasha Edan-Laperouse sadly died after consuming a sandwich from a high street retailer that contained sesame seeds but did not display allergens on its packaging.
With that in mind, Kirstie said: “Training staff on the importance of allergens and intolerances is increasingly imperative, as legislations continue to change, including Covid-19 guidance, remote online training could save lives.”
During the pandemic, the food and hospitality industry have also witnessed multiple changes in the way they can serve food and drink for consumption off the premises. Last year, a temporary off-sales extension for alcohol licensing permitted businesses to allow the sale of alcohol for consumption off-site, as well as on-site.
Put in place to allow businesses to continue trading whilst maintaining social distancing rules, business owners and employees must be trained in order to ensure they remain compliant and up to date with the legislation.
Noting that consumers are also paying close attention to health, hygiene and safety ratings that establishments are implementing, Kirstie indicated businesses must also align brand culture and values with that of consumers to keep them coming through the doors.
An all-in-one, digitalised food safety system and online training platform can also support managers in monitoring and managing each staff member's safety understanding. It also allows food safety training to begin remotely before they’ve even interacted with customers, giving complete peace of mind to managers and owners.
Being paperless, online food safety training also ensures greater sustainability for the business whilst avoiding costly mass workshops. Winning!