“Worst ever” summer for staff recruitment across Purbeck

An unprecedented shortage of staff has hit pubs, shops and holiday destinations in Swanage and across Purbeck, as the area gears up for a surge in ‘staycation’ visitors.

Many managers report they’ve been unable to recruit enough people this year and have reduced opening hours to cope.

A combination of Covid self-isolation, government-backed furlough and Brexit have produced a perfect storm, the likes of which no one can recall. Unable to go abroad, many holidaymakers are opting for a UK-based ‘staycation’ instead.

Jobs sign
Jobs sign
Jobs sign

Many businesses are displaying job adverts in the window

“Worst ever for recruitment”

Karen Jackson, administration manager at Ulwell Holiday Park, said:

“I think it’s getting more difficult, year on year, but this year has definitely been the worst ever for recruitment. It’s across all the caravan parks and holiday sites.

“The problem for us is that a lot of the jobs are seasonal, so if people are sat at home on furlough they don’t want or need to take a job. They are getting paid to do nothing.”

Ulwell Holiday Park
Ulwell Holiday Park

Ulwell Holiday Park like many sites has experienced staff shortages

“Wouldn’t get time off”

The holiday park, which boasts an indoor heated swimming pool, has 50 caravans for hire, another 90 static caravans and 70 pitches for touring and tents. It operates a bar, restaurant and shop.

Karen added: 

“We don’t serve food on two nights a week otherwise our chef wouldn’t get any time off.”

Ulwell Holiday Park
Ulwell Holiday Park
Ulwell Holiday Park
Ulwell Holiday Park

The Village Inn at Ulwell Holiday Park

“It astounds me how difficult”

Gareth Davies-Dear, manager at The Greyhound in Corfe Castle, said:

“We are one of the busiest pubs in the area and it’s a real struggle. It astounds me how difficult it is.

“Recruitment is notoriously hard in this area but with Covid it’s been almost impossible.

The Greyhound Corfe Castle

The Greyhound at Corfe Castle

Reduced hours to cope

Gareth said they had used all the normal channels to find staff, advertising in shop windows, on Instagram, Facebook, a board outside the pub, even online job sites.

He said: 

“You’ve got people who don’t want to work, I think there’s quite a bit of that, and the few that do, work so hard.

“We’re hitting the main holiday period and I’ve still only managed to get in three people and I could have done with ten.”

The pub has been closing the kitchen at 8 pm instead of the normal 9.30 pm, and closing the pub at about 10 pm, instead of 11pm. They would like to be serving breakfast at this time of year but haven’t got enough staff to do that.

The Greyhound Corfe Castle

It’s been a “real struggle” to get staff this year

“Hardest of all”

The Greyhound has also had to face the problem of people being pinged by the NHS Covid App and staff having to self-isolate even if they don’t feel ill.

Gareth said:

“I’ve run pubs for eight years in the Purbeck area and this year is the hardest of all.”

Lindsay Bish, general manager at The Grand Hotel, Swanage, said:

“I’ve never known a situation where we have not been able to recruit and I have been in the industry for over 23 years. It has been extremely difficult as we have come out of lockdown and are now very busy with a shortage of staff – it is very hard on the team.”

The hotel comprises 30 rooms and during lockdown the ground floor was refurbished, in the process rediscovering an original Victorian Mosaic floor which had been covered up by carpet for many years.  

The Grand Hotel Swanage

The ornate Victorian mosaic at The Grand, rediscovered when a carpet was removed during refurbishment

“Very challenging times”

Lindsay said:

“We’ve placed adverts but had very few replies and in some instances those that have replied have failed to turn up for the interview.

“I think perhaps, this has been a combination of Brexit and furlough. We are not an isolated case, it appears to be an issue with a lot of businesses and hotels that I have spoken with recently.”

As a  result they have had to make the difficult decision to temporarily close for lunch on Monday through to Thursday, something they have never had to do before. They are just serving drinks at that time. 

She added:

“I have an incredible team who are working extremely hard during these very challenging times to meet the demands of the business as we are extremely busy with staycations.”

Jobs sign
Jo Kiddell Purbeck Jobs
Purbeck jobs

Jo Kiddell of Purbeck Jobs says recruitment is difficult across the board

“Many factors”

Jo Kiddell, director of Purbeck Jobs recruitment agency, said: 

“I think there’s a difficulty in recruitment in everything. The challenge we have locally is that we have a huge influx of people because holidaymakers aren’t going abroad this year. There are so many factors affecting the situation – furlough, Brexit, Covid, and people just feeling they don’t want to change jobs and risk uncertainty.

“I think we have subtly changed with the lockdowns and the whole experience we have been through has affected us much more than we would ever have imagined. It’s made people rethink what’s important for them and re-evaluate what path they want to follow.”

Staff at The White Swan

White Swan Landlady Zoe Molloy with bar staff Leon Esera, Tai Schuitemaker and Harry Stockley

“Good times are ahead”

Zoe Molloy, owner of The White Swan, with her father Simon Ginn, is also currently advertising for front of house and bar staff on Facebook. They have been very busy as they emerge from the Covid crisis.

Zoe said: 

“ I love my job. I think there’s going to be a boom. Us Brits do make the best of it. 

“The government have looked after us through the whole Covid thing and now we’re exceptionally busy. I was very fearful at the beginning and it’s been extremely tough, but I’m positive. I truly believe there are good times ahead.”

The White Swan Swanage

The White Swan – recruiting staff like most places this year

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