UKHospitality is urging sector businesses in England to fully prepare for new rates payments that will kick in from 1 July, with new bills expected to land in the coming weeks.
The business rates holiday is coming to an end in June with a 66% discount for the remainder of the year (July 2021-March 2022). However, a cap on relief available to individual firms means that those businesses with an annual rates bill of over £8m will see their relief capped.
UKHospitality is proposing that affected businesses maximise their cap at the earliest opportunity by contacting their local authority and, for example, proposing that that relief is received in the early months of bills being paid. In turn, this will reduce the administrative burden and allow businesses to receive early benefit.
Those businesses that will struggle to pay any rates from 1 July are also urged to get in touch with their local authority at the earliest opportunity to discuss payment plans.
UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: "The new rates payments come into effect just days after trading restrictions are due to be lifted and will put a major economic drag on the businesses affected and risk the jobs that they support. Local authorities have the power to offer discretionary discounts or adjusted payment plans to those businesses facing hardship and we urge them to enter into constructive dialogue with those seeking support.
"This reinforces why it is crucial for the government to deliver on its commitment to dropping Covid restrictions and measures on 21 June. The hospitality sector stands ready to play its part in helping to create jobs and reinvigorate local communities, but that will only be possible if our businesses return to viability at the earliest opportunity."
Meanwhile, a UKHospitality survey of hundreds of hospitality operators found 80% reported vacancies for front of house roles, such as waiting and bar staff, and 85% were in need of chefs. Some 47% had housekeeping vacancies and 43% were looking for assistant or general managers.
The survey suggested a current vacancy rate across the sector of 9%, which implies a shortage of 188,000 workers. The survey showed that for overseas workers, many of whom returned home at the beginning of the pandemic, travel restrictions were a primary reason they had chosen not to return to the UK. Nearly a fifth said the cost of quarantine on return was preventing them from coming back.
Nicholls added: "The government must restore confidence in the hospitality sector so that it is again seen as a stable employer and provider of fulfilling careers. To facilitate this, it must stick to the reopening roadmap, lifting all restrictions from 21 June. This will restore consumer confidence and give a strong signal to workers that hospitality will bounce back strongly. Beyond this, the single biggest act of support that government could give would be to encourage more UK-based workers to join the hospitality sector."
She added that it was time for the government to review its list of shortage occupations and consider the introduction of an Australian-style visa scheme.