Hospitality Workers & Covid-19: A small-scale qualitative study exploring the impact of Covid-19 on hospitality workers in Liverpool
Environmental Health Dissertation Prize Winner
Keywords:Pandemic, Hospitality, Employees, United Kingdom, Experiences, Qualitative, Occupational Health, Covid-19
As the Covid-19 pandemic spread across the world, the UK government was forced to act with numerous policies and interventions intending to promote safety and limit the spread of the virus. Hospitality has been perhaps the most vulnerable industry during this time, as their businesses were repeatedly closed through lockdowns and limited by restrictions on gatherings, movement, and business practices. Whilst many studies have been published about the economic state of the hospitality industry, very little attention has been given to the workers in UK hospitality venues. Given the tumultuous events since the pandemic began, and the dramatic impacts to the industry, this study aims to understand the impact of Covid-19 and related safety measures on the lives of hospitality workers in Liverpool, focussing on the perceptions and effects of policy. Understanding the impact of the pandemic and corresponding policies and practices on hospitality workers can help to identify which measures were perceived to be effective, and to explore any unintended outcomes. This is a qualitative interview study, using semi-structured interviews conducted online via Microsoft Teams. Seven participants were interviewed in total before data saturation was attained. All participants were over 18 years old and worked in hospitality businesses in Liverpool during August 2020. Participants were recruited through non-probability convenience and snowball sampling methods. Once gathered, data was coded and interpreted through a process of thematic analysis. Findings from this study showed that there were substantial difficulties for hospitality employees working during the pandemic, from implementing and enforcing a variety of safety measures, to struggling with emotional and physical exhaustion and burnout. All participants had experienced notable instances of customer resistance to Covid-19 safety measures, and many indicated that inconsistencies in both government policies and the implementation of safety measures between businesses exacerbated these issues. As many co-workers were often unavailable to work, either because they had to isolate, shield, or had simply left the industry, those workers who remained regularly experienced greater workloads, increased working hours, and additional stress. This in turn had negative impacts on the mental health of employees affecting their ability to maintain personal relationships outside of work. Participants also demonstrated an awareness of many in the industry who struggled financially during lockdowns, bringing the effectiveness of the governments furlough scheme into question. Recommendations from this study include utilising Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) and licensing authorities who have existing relationships with hospitality businesses to enforce restrictions and provide advice to businesses, improving communication and understanding of relevant safety measures and policies, and increasing consistency between venues. This study also recommends the inclusion of tipped income in furlough payment calculations to prevent hospitality workers from suffering excessive income loss.
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