As demand for labour keeps increasing in the Hospitality and Leisure industry, employers are increasingly looking at developing longer-term strategies to attract and retain labour, which almost inevitably involves recruitment of employees from overseas and/or workers in Australia who are in Australia subject to visa conditions.

The Australian Trade and Investment Commission, Austrade, released the Australian Tourism Labour Force Report 2015-2020, which reported, amongst other things, on labour force predictions in the Australian hospitality and leisure industry. According to the Report, the hospitality industry is currently experiencing a shortage of almost 39,000 workers, with Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria being most under-resourced.

The Report has predicted that by 2020, the hospitality and leisure industry will need an additional 123,000 workers (including 59,594 skilled workers) to meet the tourism demands from an increase in visitors from countries such as India and China; with thriving economies, large disposable incomes and a desire for international travel.

These predictions suggest that the industry needs to explore different sources of labour, and as the industry is already well aware, it cannot just rely on the local labour market (either in CBD / metro locations, or in regional areas). Businesses need to consider recruiting employees from different States and Territories, as well as expanding recruitment activities to the international labour market. The challenge for business is two-fold, first, rethinking existing recruitment strategies based on labour predictions, and second, ensuring compliance with Australia’s complex and arguably burdensome industrial framework. So, where to start?

Businesses need to be very clear on what an ideal workforce looks like. Does the business require certainty, and therefore a permanent workforce is better, or does the business require flexibility and therefore a casual workforce is preferred. What about skills? With an increase in overseas visitors, businesses may consider recruiting workers from non-English speaking backgrounds and who are bi-lingual, or workers that have a specialist skill set and may be required for very specific roles, which require an element of cultural liaison. Job advertisements for such roles need to be carefully conceived in order to avoid being potentially discriminatory. Additionally, where job candidates are not Australia citizens, businesses must also consider the range of sponsorship obligations under relevant immigration legislation.