Proof positive: a flourishing team makes a flourishing business.

Two chance conversations this month have driven home to me the value our Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) offers hospitality operators looking to keep employees healthy, happy and work-ready, and improve productivity.

Attending a recent industry event, I introduced myself as the manager of HA’s EAP to the gentleman sitting next to me. It turned out that he was a Head Chef from one of our subscribing companies and was full of praise for the way that the EAP had helped members of his kitchen brigade dealing with mental health and addiction issues. Ultimately ensuring these valued members of his team remained in employment.

A couple of days later a potential client called me, asking him how he’d heard about the EAP he explained that a new team member had been supported by the EAP at his previous establishment receiving counselling and a grant and had therefore recommended that his new employer should sign up to the programme asap!

Both of these conversations really brought home to me the true value of the support and advice provided by the programme to individual employees who may be struggling with a wide variety of pressures at home or work. Pressures that do impact mental health and in turn, the way people do their jobs resulting in reduced performance, lack of focus and absence. These, in turn, can lead to lost productivity and significant cost to employers.

As the recent independent Stevenson-Farmer review into mental health at work reported around 15 out of every 100 people at work have an existing mental health condition and over 300,000 people with a long-term mental health condition lose their job. This is a much higher rate than for people with a physical health condition. When you consider this alongside the current recruitment challenges faced by the hospitality industry, it seems to me that supporting employee’s mental health and wellbeing should be a top priority for every employer.

Since launching the EAP just over four years ago, HA has built up a wealth of knowledge about the challenges facing those who work in our industry and whether it’s an issue with drugs, alcohol, gambling, depression, anxiety, stress, illness, lack of work/life balance or financial pressure, we can help.

We offer a raft of services including a 24/7 helpline, access to personal counselling, legal guidance, addiction support, debt advice, parenting helpline, and whistleblowing – all for an annual cost of just £5 + vat per employee. This spring, we’ll be augmenting our EAP with the addition of an online employee benefits platform and access to a range of health cash plans. Uniquely among EAP providers, should a hardship grant be required by any recipients of EAP support, we’re also able to point them towards HA’s grant-giving team, for consideration for further support.

So why not find out more about how your team can benefit from the support the EAP already offers to almost 200 companies and over 110,000 hospitality people?

Why supporting Hospitality Action needn’t be about putting your hand in your pocket …

Seven years ago, I didn’t know Dora Somerville. Now I count her as a good friend. We’ve never met (Dora lives in Wales, I live in London), but we speak regularly on the phone. You see, Dora is my HA phone friend.

Dora is very proud of her children and grandchildren, and keeps me posted on what they’re up to. Sometimes she reminisces about her life in the WAAF during the Second World War, or about her career in catering in Manchester. She often talks about her husband Hughie, whom she lost a few years ago.

Despite her fading eyesight and mobility challenges, Dora is always stoical and upbeat. She’s wise and she’s proud. And she makes me laugh.

In return, I tell Dora about my wife, Susie, and my family. And I update her on all the people I meet, and the restaurants and hotels I experience, within the hospitality industry. Dora likes to hear about Susie’s horse riding lessons, and about our holidays in Cornwall and overseas. Sometimes she even laughs at my jokes.

Dora has the odd ‘off’ day – don’t we all – and I’ll cheer her up. Other times, she’ll offer me counsel on some issue I’m grappling with. Last year, she was sympathetic and supportive as I dealt with the loss of my mother and father.

It’s important to say that Dora is anything but lonely. Her family dotes on her and is supportive and attentive. I think our phone friendship just offers her another perspective, another point of focus. Another friend.

Growing old is hard. Family and friends pass away, the ways of life you’ve known change beyond recognition, and it’s easy to think the world has forgotten about you. Reaching out to someone elderly is a great way of reassuring them that’s not the case, that their views, memories and lives still matter.

Befriending Dora has enriched my life over the past seven years, and I’d like to think she’d say the same about befriending me.

Let’s end sexual harassment in the hospitality workplace

Last week’s President’s Club Charity Dinner at the Dorchester Hotel will be the club’s last.

An undercover investigative report by the Financial Times revealed grisly stories of sexual harassment of hostesses by the more Neanderthal element of the male-only guest list at the gala auction event, which has raised funds for a range of charities for the past thirty three years.

As a result of the report, the club has been closed and its dinner discontinued.

Accounts emerged of hostesses being “groped, harassed and sexually propositioned” and subjected to “lewd comments and repeated requests to join diners in bedrooms elsewhere in the Dorchester”.

No account was given of whether front of house staff at the hotel were also subjected to sexual harassment; but it’s easy to imagine how intimidating and degrading the locker-room atmosphere must have been for them.

The FT’s exposé came on the back of recent high-profile cases of sexual harassment in Hollywood and beyond, which have galvanised men and women across the world to disclose their own hidden, unspoken and buried memories of experiences of sexual harassment.

The prevalence of sexual harassment in our culture today is shocking. A recent ComRes survey for the BBC revealed that 40% of women and 18% of men have experienced harassment in the workplace.

The survey highlighted that flexible workers are more likely to have experienced unwanted behaviour, meaning that the problem is likely to be more acute in the hospitality industry. The presence of alcohol, and the perception among some guests that hotels, restaurants and bars are places where they can pocket their moral compass and release their inner chauvinist, only exacerbate the problem.

The 2010 Equalities Act defines sexual harassment as “unwanted conduct of a sexual nature which has the purpose or effect of violating someone’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them.”

There are no circumstances where sexual harassment of any nature is acceptable. And no one should expect to be subject to any such conduct at their place of work.

If you have experienced sexual harassment at work, a good first step is to share your experiences with someone you can trust and speak to in confidence. This does not have to be someone in your organisation if the harassment has occurred at work. Speaking about sexual harassment helps explore what your options are for action. Doing this in secret or isolation is much harder and support can be very useful during this time.

As with so many other issues that affect hospitality professionals, Hospitality Action can help. It’s important to us that all employees feel safe, comfortable and uncompromised in their place of work. That’s why we offer a sexual harassment factsheet and a confidential helpline, which can help you deal with your experiences.

If your employer is a member of our EAP scheme, you can contact us to discuss your situation in confidence on 0808 802 2111 (24/7) or mail

Alternatively, non-EAP subscribers can contact our Assistance Line in confidence on 0808 802 0282 (24/7).

Don’t tolerate sexual harassment in your place of work. And don’t suffer alone.

Egg-chasers and extraordinary food – how southwest hoteliers are helping HA

In just over two months Hospitality Action will host its first Rugby Legends Dinner sponsored by Sharp’s Brewery at the beautiful Deer Park Country House Hotel in Devon. Last week I was fortunate enough to visit Deer Park for a final planning meeting. There was so much passion to support HA in the meeting, that I thought I’d convey some of it in this post.

Since June 2009 our South West fundraising board have worked tirelessly to raise funds on our behalf. From our annual Polo Day to our growing Cotswold Cycle Challenge our board members have always gone to great lengths to show their support. Richard Ball of Calcot Hotels has cycled thousands of miles and Philip Newman Hall, formally of Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, took to the sky only to jump 10,000 feet back down again, all in the name of charity.

The Rugby Legends Dinner is the brainchild of Andrew Foulkes, 2017 Cateys Manager of the Year, and Tom Ross, Operations Director, at The Pig. Both avid rugby fans and prominent South West hoteliers they have called in every favour to ensure the event is a whopping success. On the night over 200 lucky guests will enjoy a fabulous drinks reception and four course meal prepared by seven award-wining chefs including two Michelin star holder Nathan Outlaw (Restaurant Nathan Outlaw) and one Michelin star holders Paul Ainsworth (Paul Ainsworth at Number 6) and Josh Eggleton (The Pony & Trap).  Each diner will also be entertained by our guest speaker, former England player and renowned TV pundit, David “Flats” Flatman alongside a host of rugby stars including Phil Vickery MBE DL and Jeremy Guscott.

The evening will also see our legends answering questions from the crowd. The Six Nations will have just finished at the time of the event making this the perfect chance to speak to our legends about the championship. Although this is our first Rugby Legends Dinner there is already talk of a second, perhaps at a rugby stadium, in 2020!

Last year alone we spent £121,023 supporting hospitality employees in crisis in the South West, the most we spent in any region across the UK. It is only thanks to the enthusiasm, dedication and passion of Andrew Foulkes, Stuart Mathieson, Mark Godfrey, Tom Ross and Philip Newman Hall that the event is taking place and for this we are truly grateful.

Tickets to this unmissable evening are limited and I would advise you booking as soon as possible in order to secure your place! If you’d like to get further involved in our work, just like our South West Board, please don’t hesitate to give me a ring: 020 3004 5504

The flicks and some chips … it’s the little things that matter


A friend told me at this week’s Master Innholders Hotel General Managers’ Conference, that they’d recently donated £120 for Hospitality Action – and then apologised for not raising more.

I quickly put them right. Every pound helps. For instance, it costs us just £60 to underwrite an HA Family Day Out, which gives a family needing some “us” time and some fun a trip to a cinema or a leisure attraction plus a bite to eat. In other words, the £120 my friend donated will pay for two of these priceless experiences for families connected to hospitality.

When life is challenging, a break from the norm can be transformative. Don’t take it from me, though. A little Scottish boy called Liam, whose family had enjoyed a day out on us recently, wrote to Liz on HA’s Grants team to thank her. That’s Liam’s writing at the top of this post.

He’d enjoyed HA family days out, before.

Liam’s latest day out was to the cinema. I’ll let him tell the story.

HA is so many things to so many people. A new boiler to keep the cold out, maybe, or some counselling after the loss of a loved one. Advice on safeguarding against addiction. A card at Christmas.

For Liam, it was a day out with his Dad to treasure, an afternoon at the pictures and chips on the way home.

Please don’t ever apologise for supporting HA, however modest your donation. Liam will be very grateful, and so will we.


Starting to tell Hospitality Action’s stories

Welcome to Hospitality Action’s new blog. We’ve created it to enable us to bring to life the many and varied ways in which the charity helps people who work or have worked in the British hospitality industry; and to tell the stories of the thousands of individuals and companies who give up precious time to fundraise for us.

We hope it’ll inspire you to support HA – and perhaps encourage you to reach out for support, yourself.

I was publisher of The Caterer magazine until the beginning of December, when I was privileged to succeed the incomparable Penny Moore as chief executive of HA. However, I’d been a trustee of the charity for twelve years, and I suppose I thought I knew all about its work. Trustees scrutinise the P&L, monitor monies incoming and outgoing, tick the boxes of governance, sometimes rubber-stamp a new project or direction. All important stuff, but removed from the sharp end of helping people in crisis.

I confess, I wasn’t prepared for the stirring stories I’ve heard, in the past weeks, of problems overcome and lives set back on track; the heart-warming letters of thanks I’ve read from beneficiaries for whom HA has provided a new start; or the gruelling cases where the best we can do is provide comfort for people who are never going to recover from their illnesses.

The team at HA is the fulcrum that balances the sky-divers, cyclists and cake bakers who raise funds, and the beneficiaries who need help. They help people in many ways.

One person may need home adaptations to help them to live with a disability; another a respite holiday, from which they’ll return refreshed and better able to care for a loved one.

Funerals are expensive, but we’re on hand to help bereaved people struggling to cover this cost. Financial support can kick-start the lives of people needing to relocate following domestic abuse. And a Family Day Out grant allows parents and children to enjoy a shared experience that’s far more precious than the cinema tickets and popcorn we pay for.

Meanwhile, at this time of year, our winter fuel grants ensure families up and down the country stay warm, healthy and work-ready.

This blog will bring to life the work of HA and its supporters. Where appropriate, it’ll also introduce you to recipients of HA’s support. You’ll know the companies they work for. Who knows, you may recognise or even know some of them. And that’s the point. Crisis can strike anyone, anytime. It’s not something that only affects other people’s lives. Look around the colleagues in your restaurant, bar, hotel or office. Chances are one of them is silently dealing with an issue, mental, physical or financial.

One thing’s for sure: if you find yourself in crisis, HA will be there for you.