Staff drought forces restaurant bosses to offer cash bungs to fill vacancies: Pub and restaurant bosses are pushing ministers to introduce a “coronavirus recovery visa” to persuade foreign workers to return, as they resort to increasingly desperate measures to attract staff. Hospitality chiefs want a version of the visa used in Australia to plug worker shortages and keep food chains and hotels open. The mass reopening of the sector has exposed a dearth of immigrant workers, many of whom returned home at the start of the pandemic. Bosses are offering generous perks to tempt workers. Steak chain Hawksmoor, which has eight restaurants in the UK, has offered employees up to £2,000 if they recruit friends. Caravan, the London restaurant chain, last week emailed customers to offer a £100 gift card if they successfully recommend staff. Kate Nicholls, chief executive of trade association UKHospitality, said: “The government urgently needs to review the ‘shortage occupations’ list. We’ve also suggested an Australian-style coronavirus recovery visa for lower-skilled workers who don’t meet the point-based system [but] who are crucial to the recovery.” Will Beckett, co-founder of Hawksmoor, said his chain had emerged from lockdown with 90 vacancies. He is offering £200 for the first friend hired, £300 for the second and £500 for up to three more. “We knew we were going to have to put money behind this problem,” said Beckett. “People who we thought were going to come back from furlough waited until the last possible moment to tell us, but you can’t blame them.” Currently, those on the government’s shortage occupations list who can apply for a skilled worker visa include staff in healthcare, science and engineering. There are now calls for hospitality workers to be added to this list. A survey to be published by UKHospitality this week shows that 80% of respondents are looking for front-of-house workers such as bar, reception and waiting staff, and more than 70% are looking for kitchen staff. Two thirds think ministers should create a short-term visa for overseas workers. (Sunday Times)

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