1. Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you came to your current role?
I started my career as a food buyer for Sainsbury. I then had buying roles in Forte Hotels and Booker Foodservice before coming to the charity in 2004 on a six month secondment. 13 years later I’m still here!
2. What is the best part of your job?
I love the hospitality industry and the people who work in it. We have amazing fundraising events at fantastic locations with fab people but underneath it all we’re raising funds and awareness to help people who are in desperate situations. Reading some of the thank you letters we receive from people we’ve helped makes it all worthwhile. I honestly think it is the best industry in the UK!
3. What are the key issues for the sector at the moment?
The obvious one is Brexit and the uncertainty that is causing amongst employees, certainly those that have come from outside the UK to get work. Another is the long hours people often have to work in the industry. Just the other week a survey from Unite showed the brutal long hours culture is putting chefs at risk as four in five (79%) admitted they’ve had an accident or near miss due to fatigue and 69% reported that their hours impact on their health, whilst 27% said they drink alcohol to see them through their shift.
Our Employee Assistance Programme also shows that bullying and harassment is still a major problem in many companies within the industry. With the exception of Brexit, these are all issues that feature in our ‘It could happen to anyone’ advertising campaign.
4. How can Hospitality Action help to resolve those issues?
I’m not sure how much influence we can have over Brexit but we can help people who maybe stressed, struggling financially or are facing redundancy or reduced hours as a result. Our Employee Assistance Programme can also offer assistance to anyone suffering with their mental health, alcohol abuse or bullying and harassment in the workplace. It offers employees a helpline or online advice sheets 24-7/365 days of the year covering all topics from legal advice to coping with life changing illness and also counselling if that’s what is needed.
5. What can employers do if they identify an employee who potentially needs help from Hospitality Action?
Firstly it is important that employers tell their people who Hospitality Action is and what we do. People usually come to the charity as a last resort, but we can help more proactively if they come to us sooner. We can also help with managed referrals, where a manger identifies an issue and – with the employee’s permission – lets us know. Anyone currently working in the industry qualifies for our help.
6. How do you see the future for the hospitality industry?
I think the industry will continue to prosper but we need to educate people on how great a sector it is to work in. Employers also need to look at their businesses and ensure that there is a work life balance and that they really look after their staff.
7. What are your plans for the future?
Hospitality Action’s Employee Assistance Programme has gone from strength to strength with 155 companies signed up and over 100,000 employees involved. The charity is 180 years old this year. It’s managed to come this far because it keeps adapting to the needs of the industry. We shall continue to do this into the future. We’re currently working on capability advice, pension planning and extending our advice on health and wellbeing. We’re also launching new, clearer and more extensive help sheets online. Our objective is to continue raising awareness of the issues industry employees may be facing, raising more money to fund the programme and ultimately to help more people – it’s why we’re here!
8. Last hotel you stayed at?
For pleasure rather than business it was the Intercontinental in Sydney in December – we were visiting my son for Christmas as he was studying in Australia.
9. Your favourite food?
Although I love top end cuisine it would have to be roast rib of beef – I used to be a meat buyer for Sainsbury’s and they used to have the most amazing beef.
10. The one item of technology you can’t live without?
Like everyone else I imagine – my iPhone. My life is on there!
11. What is the most important life lesson you’ve learnt?
I’ve been very fortunate in my career in that I feel I have never been penalised in any way for being female. I have learnt that you just need to go out there, work hard and do a good job to be successful.
Find out more about Hospitality Action and how it helps people within the industry here: