The entire UK service sector is facing a massive, Brexit induced vacuum as a new study reveals one in 10 workers in restaurants, bars, hotels and other hospitality businesses is thinking of leaving the country.
Some managers in the industry fear they will be forced to close as a result of Britain leaving the EU, research found.
A survey of more than 400 hospitality workers and 260 managers showed that the sector could face significant staff shortages, according to a report by Planday.
Half of workers said Brexit had made the UK a less welcoming place to live, while two out of five did not believe the Government understood or represented the needs of EU citizens who work in hospitality in Britain.
Almost half of managers said the Government should offer assistance to help the sector deal with Brexit.
In Belfast, Colin Neill of industry group Hospitality Ulster said the the issue was already proving a major problem.
“The findings of this report will be very worrying for the Hospitality sector across the UK. In Northern Ireland we are faced with an acute shortage of skills. Indeed by 2024 the sector needs to recruit 2,000 chefs and fill 30,000 vacancies.
“The fact is we won’t be able to come anywhere close to doing that if we are to fill them from the NI workforce only.
“It is therefore vital that no extra restrictions are placed on accessing this vital labour post-Brexit and that is something Hospitality Ulster has been, and will continue, to campaign strongly for.’’
John Coldicutt, chief commercial officer at Planday, said: “These findings show to us the depth of the potential impact of Brexit on the UK economy, with the hospitality industry being hit especially hard.
“There’s clearly false confidence within the hospitality sector, with almost three times as many workers considering leaving as managers expect.
“Now more than ever it’s crucial that managers make sure they have the right infrastructure in place to engage their employees and build genuine loyalty.”
Planday describes itself as a workforce collaboration firm.
Most employers are already struggling to recruit skilled staff, and they believe the problem will get worse or stay the same in the coming years, according to another study.
Research by educational organisation City & Guilds among 1,000 employers found that more than four out of five employ staff from the EU.
Brexit topped the list of external concerns, with half warning it will hamper business growth.
Kirstie Donnelly, Managing Director of City & Guilds, said: “The UK is facing a skills gaps crisis which, if (it) goes unaddressed, could have a disastrous impact on UK businesses’ ability to compete on a global scale post-Brexit.”