Addressing the Rise of Irregular Employment in Hospitality: Key Insights and Solutions
Food delivery couriers from Bolt and Wolt facing irregular employment challenges in the hospitality sector.

Reacting to Irregular Employment in the Hospitality Sector: A Growing Concern 🚨🍽️

The Alarming Statistics 📊

The latest data reveals a troubling trend in the hospitality sector: a significant portion of businesses employing workers irregularly are from this industry. According to figures from the Ministry of Home Affairs, 25% of all irregular employers last year were involved in accommodation and food services. This statistic underscores a growing issue that requires urgent attention.

Breakdown of Irregular Employers 🏢

In 2023, 1,695 employers were found to have irregularly employed workers from outside the European Union, known as third-country nationals (TCNs). Of these, 436 were in the hospitality sector, highlighting it as the most affected industry. Following hospitality, the sectors with the highest number of irregular employers were:

  1. Wholesale and Retail Trade, Including Repair of Vehicles and Motorcycles: 267 employers
  2. Administration: 179 employers
  3. Construction: 168 employers

These numbers indicate a widespread problem across various sectors, but hospitality remains the most significant offender.

Year-on-Year Increase in Irregular Employment 📈

The trend of irregular employment has been increasing year-on-year. In 2021, 1,060 employers were caught engaging in this practice. This number surged by 36% in 2022 to 1,446 employers. The growth rate slowed slightly in 2023, with a 17% increase to 1,695 employers. Despite the slowing pace, the upward trend is clear and concerning.

Government Response and Enforcement 🛡️

The Home Affairs Ministry has taken steps to address this issue. Almost 90% of businesses caught employing TCNs irregularly have regularized their positions. However, the remaining 12% were either fined or referred to court. Specifically:

  • 29% of offending employers were referred to court for serious violations, such as employing workers without an employment record and work permit.
  • Employers with workers who had no employment record but a valid permit with the same employer were issued fines.

The country’s employment agency, Jobsplus, plays a crucial role in enforcement. It conducts regular inspections and administrative checks to ensure compliance with local labor market regulations.

The Human Impact: Workers’ Rights and Conditions 🤝

The issue of irregular employment extends beyond statistics and enforcement; it significantly impacts the lives of the workers involved. Hospitality workers, particularly food couriers, have been vulnerable to irregular employment and poor working conditions for some time. A study by the Department for Industrial and Employment Relations (DIER) highlighted that these workers often do not get enough rest, which raises concerns about their overall well-being.

A Call for Comprehensive Solutions 📣

Addressing irregular employment in the hospitality sector requires a multifaceted approach:

  1. Stricter Enforcement: Enhanced monitoring and stricter penalties for non-compliance can deter businesses from employing workers irregularly.
  2. Worker Protection: Ensuring that workers, especially those in vulnerable positions, are aware of their rights and have access to support if they are employed irregularly.
  3. Employer Education: Educating employers about the legal requirements and the benefits of regular employment practices.
  4. International Cooperation: Collaboration with countries of origin to ensure that TCNs are aware of the legal employment pathways available.

Lastly: A Call to Action 🔍

The rise in irregular employment within the hospitality sector is a serious issue that affects both the integrity of the labor market and the well-being of workers. While government efforts to regularize these situations are commendable, more needs to be done to prevent such practices from occurring in the first place. By focusing on stricter enforcement, worker protection, and employer education, we can create a fairer and more just labor market for everyone.