Post-pandemic the changing relationship between employers and employees is having a big impact on some of Cumbria’s key industries – not least tourism and hospitality.

One of the county’s biggest law firms Burnetts is one of the organisations working with Cumbria Tourism as a Strategic Partner to help champion the long-term success of the local visitor economy and the communities it supports.

David Gibson, Head of Employment and HR at Burnetts, says tackling complex issues around recruitment, skills and retention have become one of the top priorities for tourism businesses.

He comments, “The pandemic has speeded up trends that were already underway, such as people’s desire to achieve a better work-life balance and utilising technology in a completely new way.

“Changing attitudes have seen businesses forced to become more innovative in the way they engage with both existing – and potential – staff, and careful planning is needed to ensure companies keep up with these new challenges in the workplace and retain the competitive edge.”

Burnetts has offices in Carlisle, Penrith and Cockermouth. Their key services include preparing key employment documents during the recruitment process, dealing with staff performance or disputes in the workplace, and providing bespoke training to help organisations plan more effectively.

David continues, “Good practice around HR and employment isn’t just a fluffy added extra; it can bring essential financial savings. For instance, my colleague Senior Associate, Anna Lovett advises businesses on all aspects of the economic benefits of adopting good employment law practices and is regularly involved in presenting workshops on some of the key issues. Ultimately, this all has a fundamental impact on the bottom line.

“We also flag the pitfalls of getting it wrong. For instance, when could turning down someone for a job potentially result in your company facing legal action for discrimination? Or have you considered how to protect your intellectual property if a key member of your team – such as your award-winning Michelin star chef - is snapped up by one of your closest competitors?

“Broadly speaking, there are three pillars to consider. Firstly, employers find themselves needing to be more flexible to get the right people in the right jobs at the right time. For tourism and hospitality, this can be particularly challenging as many customer-facing role must be done face to face.

“This leads to the second pillar, which centres on how employers engage and communicate with their staff. Companies are moving away from the traditional ‘control and command’ structures and there is a real expectation among staff that they are genuinely listened to and their personal needs and expectations are considered in organisational decisions. If not, they will simply vote with their feet and find an alternative place to work.

“Thirdly, there are whole new range of parameters emerging in areas such as health and safety and mental health. At the same time, this does offer new opportunities for businesses to reach out to local talent and stand out in a positive way when it coming to attracting and hiring the best people.”

David adds, “These changes are challenging to grapple with and there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution. However, we do need a sophisticated level of debate during this continuing period of flux to help move businesses forward for the future.”

David Gibson can be contacted for confidential advice on: