Hotel, restaurant and bar workers from outside the Common Travel Area will now be allowed to spend up to 18 months in Jersey as part of a bid to address the hospitality sector’s staffing crisis.
The double whammy of Brexit and the pandemic saw many workers return to their home countries, leaving the industry limping through summer short of 1,500 workers. It led many premises to shorten their opening hours, reduce their service or even close altogether as a result.
And the struggles continue – at the time of writing, there are around 150 hospitality and catering vacancies on the gov.je jobs page, ranging from waiting staff, bartenders and housekeepers to chefs and managers.
Up to now, temporary seasonal permissions for hospitality workers have only been valid for nine-months, but the Home Affairs Minister has approved extending permits issued before 1 May 2022 by another nine months.
The move by Deputy Gregory Guida has been described as a “one-off exception” while longer term solutions are drawn up.
“The opportunity for employers to extend their permits by nine months provides much needed and immediate assistance to the hospitality sector,” the Minister said. “This move will allow time for the labour market to stabilise and for us to gather reliable data before considering any substantive changes to the Work Permit Policy.”
It comes after the Jersey Hospitality Association (JHA) submitted a successful business case for the change.
Under the Work Permit Policy, any employers from any sector are allowed to submit a business case for an amendment if they can demonstrate that British or Irish labour cannot be sourced.
Jersey’s Construction Council also previously made a successful bid for temporary work permits for construction workers.
JHA Chief Executive Claire Boscq said the permit extension would give the industry “breathing space that will allow our members to hold onto essential staff for longer, especially after 18 months of disruption.”
She continued: “When the restrictions on trading were finally lifted, we were hoping for a swift return to normal business, but as has been widely reported, many venues struggled due to an acute shortage of staff.
“The decision to extend existing work permits is a step in the right direction. It means our members will be able to keep the loyal and hardworking team members who have helped their businesses through tough times this year when normally they would have to leave at the end of their nine-month permit. This will help those businesses as we head into the winter months and provides certainty as they prepare for the busy summer season next year.
“We understand the concerns that Ministers had with our original proposal, and we hope that this temporary extension will produce enough data to provide a more permanent solution to the staffing challenges our members are facing."
Economic Development Minister Senator Lyndon Farnham thanked the JHA, Jersey Business and the Customs and Immigration Service for their continuing work “to find solutions that will assist the island in the longer term.”
As reported by Express earlier this month, one such solution is securing labour from other parts of the Commonwealth during peak season.
A Government spokesperson confirmed at the time that “discussions are being held between Government officials from Jersey and from other jurisdictions” – though they declined to confirm which ones.
Getting hospitality back on its feet is important for the economy – last year, the industry’s output was £122m, 45% down on 2019 when it was £224m.
Jersey isn’t alone in its hospitality struggles – Guernsey businesses have equally reported a “severe” situation in need of urgent Government action.
Express recently spoke to the new head of the island's key hospitality lobby group, Claire Boscq-Scott, about the challenges facing the industry...
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