HR prepares booze crews

HR departments in the hospitality sector have been working furiously behind the scenes to ensure managers and staff are prepared for this week’s changes to licensing hours.

From Thursday (24 Nov-ember), pubs, bars, clubs, restaurants and off-licences will be allowed to serve alcohol around the clock after amendments to the Licensing Act. Of the 160,000 licensed premises in England and Wales, three-quarters have applied for extended opening hours, and 160 have asked for 24-hour licences.

The longer hours will give pub firms a headache in terms of security, higher rates of pay and a reluctance among staff to work long hours, according to Mike Huss, employment specialist at law firm Peninsula.

And unions have expressed concerns about safety, especially for workers trying to get home when there is no public transport. Raj Gill, branch secretary for hotel and catering at the GMB union, said pub companies needed to put staff training at the top of the agenda, particularly how to manage aggressive customers and defuse potentially violent situations.

Pub companies insist they are prepared. Jayne Mee, HR director at The Spirit Group, which operates 1,800 outlets, said it had spent a “huge amount of time and resources” on ensuring they were ready.

“We have been in regular dialogue with our pub teams over the new Act,” she said. “We have trained our teams on the implications and we don’t anticipate any problems.”

Sarah Carter, recruitment manager at JD Wetherspoons, whose pubs will open at 9am, said: “All managers have gone through security as well as customer management courses.”

Other companies, including Mitchells & Butlers and Greene King, have run workshops to allay staff fears and trained managers to deal with anti-social behaviour.

Cost of extended hours for employers

  • Employers fear the consequences of the new licensing laws, according to research.
  • 74% of firms surveyed fear increased staff absenteeism, according to employment law firm Peninsula which questioned more than 1,600 employers from all sectors.
  • About the same number think the relaxed hours will have a detrimental effect on productivity and 62% think it will lead to more workplace accidents.
  • Recruitment firm estimates drink-related sickness and lost productivity costs employers 2.8bn a year.

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