Hospitality industry called out on bullying, harassment and exploitation

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of the Workplace Health and Safety profession. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.
Sunday, 25 September, 2022 - 12:00
Industry news
National News

Two-thirds of workers in the hospitality industry believe their employer focuses more on customer needs rather than employees’ safety, according to a recent University of Queensland study.

It also found more than 60 per cent of workers in the industry experienced sexual harassment, verbal and psychological bullying or racial abuse, while more than 70 per cent witnessed these behaviours.

“The results exposed deep cultural issues in the hospitality industry, with poor behaviours and practices that have become normalised and systemic,” said University of Queensland Associate Professor Richard Robinson, who conducted a survey of almost 400 hospitality employees in late 2021 and early 2022 to understand how their working experiences aligned with the five Fair Work principles: contracts, pay, working conditions, management and representation.

“Customers were the main perpetrators, although 42 per cent of respondents said the abuse came from their managers or supervisors,” he said.

Pay and contracts were also significant concerns, with almost 20 per cent of respondents not receiving minimum pay rates or unsure whether they were paid fairly.

Around 45 per cent reported not receiving overtime or penalty rate loading entitlements, while more than 30 per cent said they never saw a contract or written terms for their current job.

Robinson said it was important to highlight these issues, particularly in the current tight labour market.

“With the unemployment rate at 3.4 per cent, demand for workers is high but supply is low – allowing some hospitality workers to negotiate higher wages and better conditions,” he said.

“But unless all industry leaders and business owners address these cultural issues at their core, we’ll return to an imbalance of power when labour market dynamics change.”

Robinson said the same survey was administered by colleagues to hospitality workers in New Zealand, Ireland, Scotland, Norway and Greece.

“The results were consistent, indicating systemic issues in hospitality worldwide,” he said.