Through a new employment page, a Belfast man is attempting to assist takeaways across Northern Ireland with staff shortages.
The Northern Ireland Takeaway Association was founded by Michael Henderson, 33, of West Belfast, two and a half years ago. He wanted to assist the industry after working in it for ten years and meeting a lot of individuals along the road.
Michael was overwhelmed with businesses suffering from a “revolving door of challenges” during the coronavirus outbreak, including receiving grants, constraints, and personnel shortages.
He has now started a page on social media called Takeaway Jobs NI to fight staffing challenges in the industry. This recruitment portal allows struggling companies to post job openings for free, as well as provide a resource for job seekers.
Michael talked to Belfast Live about how he founded the Northern Ireland Takeaways Association and the difficulties he’s heard from people in the industry during the pandemic.
“I’ve got to know a lot of people in the industry throughout the whole of Northern Ireland and the one thing I kept hearing was they had no support,” he said.
“The takeaway industry has been renowned for being the baby brother of the hospitality industry. It brings a lot into the economy every year, but never gets the perks or support it needs.
“It needs to have its own bracket, so we decided to start up the Northern Ireland Takeaway Association, with our aim to provide support and be a safety net for takeaways across Northern Ireland, through all ethnic minorities.
“We support a lot of takeaways around NI and throughout Covid its been a revolving door of issues. During lockdown, we were lobbying on their behalf to get them included into certain grants they weren’t included in at the start, then it was also about the 11pm restrictions, we lobbied to get that lifted and worked with Stormont to get the Covid issue across to our takeaways.”
The Association communicates with local governments, the Food Standards Agency, and takeaways, as well as working with companies across the UK to reduce takeout utility costs.
When numerous takeaways across Northern Ireland were forced to close their doors on one of their busiest evenings of the year, Michael said the difficulties hit home for him.
He said: “A third of takeaways in Northern Ireland closed on New Year’s Eve, which is one of our busiest nights of the year, because they didn’t have the staff to do it. So they’re missing out on a lot of money due to staff shortages, and over 90% of takeaways now are suffering staff issues, which sees a lot of our takeaways closing.
“There is the fear of the new VAT coming in. We’re worried up to a fifth of takeaways in Northern Ireland will close between April and June if the VAT goes back to 20%. It just won’t be viable for them on top of everything else.”
Michael hopes that by launching the Takeaway Jobs NI page, he will be able to help with staffing concerns before the new VAT rates take effect at the end of March.
They’re trying to cover more than simply staffing gaps; he’s also committed to ensuring that new hires are adequately trained and certified.
Michael added: “We’re trying to work alongside learning centres and places like Belfast Met to get something in place for training. So people will be trained up, we’re trying to professionalise the industry.
“We’re trying to train them up to get their food hygiene, fire safety, allergens certificates. We’re trying to work with the right sort of people to get them the qualifications. That’s one thing we’re aiming to get.”
During the pandemic, many people in Northern Ireland lost their jobs, with young people being the hardest hit. Michael hopes they would look for work in their local takeaways or contact the Association for assistance in finding a job.
“There are over 1,000 takeaways in Northern Ireland currently advertising jobs, and that’s the lower end of the scale,” he said.
“These are the jobs people may want, the driver shifts, the one or two nights a week. A lot of people lost their jobs during covid, and our sector can facilitate for a few shifts a week.