Adieu to the British seasonaire. Barring an 11th-hour reprieve, Europe’s ski resorts will soon be largely devoid of British seasonal workers.
From 1 January, post-Brexit, British employees seeking seasonal work as chalet hosts, instructors, drivers and nannies in European ski resorts will find it more difficult to obtain work.
“It’s game over unless the government makes an agreement with the EU that will mean there is a way for British staff to work across Europe in the tourism industry on seasonal jobs,” said Charles Owen, director of Seasonal Businesses in Travel (SBiT), which represents many holiday firms.
The trade body claims that up to 25,000 British seasonal worker jobs in the travel industry will be lost, many contracted by UK-based companies.
Currently, under the EU’s “posted worker” directive, any UK company can second staff to positions in other EU member states. The staff are on UK contracts, pay UK tax and national insurance and, under existing freedom of movement rules, do not need a work permit or immigration visa.
“Unfortunately, when the Brexit transition deals ends, all that ends,” Owen said. “In the future, if a British company wants to employ British chalet staff or bar staff, they would need to get a work permit in, say, France, proving a French person couldn’t do that job by advertising at an unemployment office for eight weeks to show no one wants to apply for it; then go through a minimum two- to three-month process to get a work permit; and then, once they’ve got that, the worker must apply for an immigration visa so they can enter the country – which means it’s not going to happen.”
The travel industry has been warning about the threat to British workers for more than two years. But it had been believed that this ski season would operate largely as if the UK remained part of the EU.
Under the existing arrangements, UK staff who are working in the resorts before 31 December can remain in their jobs for the entirety of the 2020-21 ski season. However, Covid has thrown a large spanner in the works as a second wave of lockdowns is rolled out across Europe.
“The chances of a ski season starting in December are diminishing by the day,” Owen said. “So firms have an unenviable choice: do they bring staff out, take a risk and hope they can get them on some kind of a furlough scheme? Or don’t bring them out and wait? It’s an absolute nightmare.”
SBiT has launched an online petition to save jobs that is being backed by many in the industry. “As someone who has worked in the ski industry for 30 years, it is heartbreaking to see the impact, the loss of opportunity and the end of so many dreams,” said Dan Fox, managing director of SkiWeekends. “We have thousands of applications for these roles – young people from every walk of life. Every year we have staff who have never even skied but have the right attitude. We employ people we believe will succeed, we don’t care about qualifications.”
Fox said he had made many friends in his 30 years in the ski industry. “And, having spent more than half overseas, I know the life-changing impact. So many of those who said ‘I’m just doing one season’ have ended up as a senior manager back in the UK. Many have created their own businesses and, between us, we have created thousands of jobs, taking people on holiday and making them happy.”
Rob Stewart, who runs a a PR firm that represents many businesses in the industry, started off as a ski instructor in the Alps 25 years ago.
“What concerns me the most is the thought that ski holidays will become the exclusive right of the super-wealthy. People like myself, from very normal backgrounds, from families that weren’t used to taking ski holidays, followed a dream by working overseas and earning money from doing something we loved. I’ve managed to make a career out of that, like thousands of others. Brexit is potentially taking those opportunities away.”