Voices from hospitality's front line

08 Apr, 2022
Voices from hospitality's front line
Dr David Williamson.

New AUT research looks at workplace practices in the hospitality industry and gives recommendations to improve working conditions.

The report Voices From The Front Line gives voice to hospitality workers whose feelings are often overlooked or marginalised. The findings highlight unfair and illegal practices amongst a significant minority of employers and aims to be the starting point for discussion to improve work experiences and long-term sustainability for the industry.

“Prior to the pandemic, hospitality in Aotearoa gave employment to 140,000 people – but unfortunately it has a bad reputation in how its employees are treated,” says Dr David Williamson, lead author of the study.

“The majority of employers are doing the right thing, but there is a significant minority of workplaces that are failing to comply with employment law and failing to provide decent work conditions. As the sector starts the post-Covid rebuild, now is the time to address these concerning issues.”

The survey of 396 hospitality workers found that:

  • 16% had not signed an employment agreement before starting work
  • 13% were not receiving the correct payslips
  • 18% were not receiving the minimum wage
  • 22% did not get the correct holiday pay
  • 22% were not getting time off or correct pay for working statutory holidays
  • 22% were not receiving the correct rest breaks
  • 81% stated they received no training in their jobs
  • 48% did not get opportunities for promotion
  • 49% experienced or witnessed harassment in the workplace
  • Owners and managers or supervisors were responsible for 40% of the reported harassment
  • 49% did not report harassment incidents
  • 69% were aware of health and safety risks in their workplace
  • 10% belonged to a union
  • 29% are in temporary/casual employment

The researchers say that support and firm direction from employer groups, unions and government is needed to tackle these issues.

It gives three priorities for change: Driving out the minority of bad employers, ensuring decent employment practices in the industry, and changing the image of hospitality work.

Removing the bad employers could be done with better systems of enforcing employment conditions in a timely and effective manner, it says. Organisations that represent employers should name and shame, to support most of their members who are doing the right thing.  Having an employer ranking system displayed for customers would allow them to make choices to support good working conditions.

The researchers say that to ensure decent employment there is a need to focus on pay and conditions, training and development, and enabling employees to speak up on things like lifting service quality and employment standards.

The negative view of hospitality work also needs to change to overcome recruitment and retention problems – but this can only happen after the industry has been cleaned up, the report says.

Voices From The Front Line was headed by Dr David Williamson from AUT’s School of Hospitality and Tourism, with Professor Erling Rasmussen from the New Zealand Work Research Institute at the University, and research assistant Camille Palao.

The survey was drawn from people who were members of online networks and groups associated with the hospitality industry.

It was run in late 2019 and early 2020, partly during the exceptional times of Covid-19. However, the findings align with historical work experience problems in this sector, Williamson says.

Voices From The Front Line is part of an international cluster of researchers running the survey in Scotland, Ireland, Norway, Sweden and Australia.

In the latest Times Higher Education university rankings, AUT ranked first in Australasia for its global research impact.

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