Covid Scotland: Recruitment struggle for hospitality businesses as staff shy away from vaccine passport plan

Hospitality venues which are preparing to introduce vaccine passports are struggling to recruit staff as workers worry over having to check customers’ vaccine status, an industry body has warned.

The Scottish Hospitality Group (SHG) said venues designated as “nightclubs” are having problems filling vacancies due to fears over problems implementing the passport scheme, which requires customers to be double vaccinated.

Under the new rules, which will be implemented from Friday, the scheme will cover venues which are open between midnight and 5am, serve alcohol after midnight, play live or recorded music for dancing, and have a designated space for dancing that is in use.

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SHG spokesman Stephen Montgomery said the added burden of checking Covid vaccine status was deterring workers from taking jobs in hospitality, which has already been hit by job uncertainty as a result of lockdowns and Brexit.

Customers will need to be double vaccinated to enter a nightclub from 1 October.

He said: "We already have an issue in recruiting. Our main priority is getting somebody to serve customers and with four days to go [until vaccine passports are implemented], it is as an absolute nightmare. This is putting so much stress and strain on business operators.”

Mr Montgomery said staff were concerned abut abuse from customers when they ask for their vaccine status.

The implementation of passes has caused friction in some countries where similar schemes have been introduced. In New York, a waitress was recently attacked after asking a group of diners for proof of vaccination in accordance with new local regulations.

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Mr Montgomery said: “We already see it from when we're asking people to come in and wear their masks or to check in. We're getting the abuse from people – so how is this going to work?”

He said a manager at his hotel had recently handed in her notice as a result of upheaval in the industry.

Mr Montgomery said: "She asked me ‘how much more do we have to take? How much more blood do we have to physically give to actually get back to doing what our job is?’

"She said she just couldn’t take it any more and quit. And that's not just me, that's across the whole sector. The basic fact of it is, we cannot implement this in the time we've got it.”

The vaccine passport scheme will also apply to venues for live indoor unseated events of more than 500 people, live unseated events outdoors of more than 4,000 people, and any event of more than 10,000 people, including football matches.

Three Scottish football clubs will be required to check if supporters have vaccine passports this weekend, with Hearts versus Motherwell on Saturday and Rangers versus Hibs, plus Aberdeen versus Celtic, expected to attract crowds of more than 10,000 people.

Rangers have already communicated to their supporters that all attendees must be double-jabbed, with the club advising those planning to travel to Ibrox to bring a hard copy of their vaccine passport, while Hearts expect to check one in every ten supporters at Tynecastle.

Mr Montgomery said while the onus was on the business operator to make sure that a customer had a valid vaccine passport, it was not yet clear what the penalty would be if a business failed to do so.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We want to keep businesses open and trading over what may be one of the most difficult winter periods in history.

"Vaccine certification is in use in many countries, often with a much wider scope than planned in Scotland, and we believe they are an essential and proportionate measure to reduce the risk posed by coronavirus.

“We are engaging with stakeholders on the roll out of the certification scheme. More information was recently published and further details will be announced shortly.”

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