A “disproportionate” number of hospitality workers suffer with mental health problems, according to a new report by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH).

‘Service With(out) a Smile?’ looks at the mental health of hospitality workers and found that 81% of UK chefs have experienced poor mental health during their careers. The new research claims there is a lack of awareness amongst employees about any support that is available to them, and that, for many, there is no support on offer at all.

However, the report acknowledged the work done by organisations such as Hospitality Action in supporting workers with mental health issues, but stated that “provision of mental wellbeing support is still patchy and inconsistent across the wider sector, and the prevalence of mental health problems in the workforce remains concerning”

In response, Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, said: “Hospitality is a dynamic industry where careers can be fun and rewarding but these findings are obviously of concern. Many of our members already have practices and programmes in place to support those dealing with mental health issues, but it is clear that more needs to be done – especially if we are to encourage more British workers to consider a career in a sector with an increasingly acute labour shortage.

“Whether it is to address internal or external matters that lead to a stressful work environment, these results reiterate that we as an industry must work faster to provide our valuable and committed staff with the support they need. In the workplace in particular, staff abuse from customers or colleagues should never be tolerated and businesses must always act firmly to protect staff.

“By integrating this thinking into business strategy and investing more in supporting resources, businesses can show they are serious about offering their staff a safe work environment. We work closely with charities such as Hospitality Action and The Licenced Trade Charity, assist both businesses and employees to promote measures to ensure better mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. “As a trustee of Hospitality Action, I have seen first-hand the dedicated efforts that are being made to develop employee assistance and support.”

The RSPH report made the following recommendations:

• Employers should put in place systems and processes that protect mental health and wellbeing, including: Regular one-to-ones between managers and employees; mental health first aiders; training, such as the RSPH Level 2 Award in Understanding Mental Wellbeing

• Improved enforcement of employment rights

• Further research is needed into what hospitality can learn from best practice in workplace wellbeing within other sectors

Fast facts

  • Hospitality is the third biggest employment sector in the UK
  • The working culture of the hospitality sector is currently stressful and demanding; three quarters (74%) have reported being verbally abused by a customer
  • As a result, many employees report poor mental health and wellbeing, with one in five (20%) reporting severe mental health problems they believe to be a direct result of their job
  • Almost two thirds (62%) of workers do not think the sector looks after its employees
  • The mental well being support available for workers is inconsistent, and where it is available there is limited awareness amongst employees