Employment law helpline sees spike in calls from Northern Ireland’s hospitality sector

Employment law helpline sees spike in calls from Northern Ireland's hospitality sector

Northern Ireland’s Labour Relations Agency (LRA) has reported a spike in calls from the hospitality sector following the emergence of the Omicron variant.

The LRA’s workplace information service (WIS) has seen a dramatic increase in calls over the past two weeks, most of which have been distress calls from employers and employees who are struggling to manage resources.

Key issues include the implementation of the Covid passport and large-scale cancellations/no-shows resulting from a drop in consumer confidence, the LRA said.

Fionnuala Davey, manager of the workplace information service, said: “With thousands of people depending on hospitality for a living, our team of experts have again found themselves at the frontline of the pandemic.

“A few months ago, the majority of calls we received related to furlough and crossed all sectors but now the focus has completely switched. There is a very high level of concern and doubt, particularly from those working in restaurants, pubs and hotels with most unsure as to their employment rights in what is regarded as a very fluid and challenging time.”

The LRA’s phone-based service handled almost 23,000 calls over a 12-month period which generated 50,000 queries on employment rights and best practice.

In addition to being a source of up-to-date information around employment legislation, the team provides guidance on rights and responsibilities and possible courses of action, as well as signposting to other organisations, helplines or bodies for support.

Ms Davey said: “The past 20-plus months have proved the value of the information services provided by the LRA. Our workload may have escalated but this only reflects the extra demands and evolving needs of the labour market at a time of great flux and change.”

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