Skip to content

Turning hospitality fears into cheers

The season of goodwill can be a rewarding and lucrative time for the hospitality sector. But as one of the hardest hit casualties of the pandemic, for those that survived, Christmas 2023 could also be their ‘last chance saloon’. Could this festive season be the turning point to bring bars back into the black and restaurants out of the red?

The UK hospitality sector that demonstrated its resilience against successive lockdowns, rising energy costs, food price inflation, staff shortages and a cost-of-living crisis now faces the threat of train strikes to boot. Could the planned strikes from Christmas Eve until December 27th signal a nightmare before Christmas if friend and family gatherings and parties get cancelled last minute? Or staff can’t get to work? Christmas is a lifeline for many hospitality businesses – December can be equal to three months of trading[1], so the timing couldn’t be worse.

Wishing you a happy and HSE compliant Christmas!

While potential train strikes and supply issues cannot be avoided, Giles Reading, CEO of Irwell looks at some of the risks associated with December trading that can.

He shares some of the ways that the hospitality sector can manage and mitigate their festive liabilities through Christmas and beyond – into a prosperous New Year 2024.

Keep customers merry and safe

The hospitality sector has a moral and legal obligation to prioritise customer and employee safety and wellbeing. While there are health and safety risks all year round, some become more prominent during the festive season.

All businesses want to see increased footfall at Christmas, but this shouldn’t compromise customer and staff safety. If a venue becomes over busy, people would find it difficult to evacuate in the event of a fire so ensure that measures are in place to avoid overcrowding and never go over capacity limits.

Of course, Christmas is a time to sparkle and dazzle with lights, candles and decorations but businesses should ensure that cables and connections are fit for purpose and comply with British Standard regulations. Make sure Christmas trees aren’t blocking fire escapes or access to fire extinguishers. Read here for more detailed advice about Christmas fire safety when decking the halls of hotels, bars and restaurants.

12 Days of Christmas Fire Safety Tips | Keep Safe in 2023 (

Keep staff secure and in good spirits.

From slips, trips, knife injuries, burns, dermatitis and musculoskeletal problems to dealing with the general public, working in hospitality can be a risky business. Around 565,000 employees sustained an injury at work according to the Labour Force Survey and 135 workers were killed in work-related accidents in 2022/23[2]. Christmas can be more chaotic than ever with extra temporary staff so it’s imperative that they are fully trained in health and safety procedures and policies – just like full time, permanent staff.

Last year 477,000 workers[3] suffered from a work-related musculoskeletal disorder. More Christmas deliveries mean more manoeuvring and lifting heavy boxes of food and drink so make sure manual handling legislation is followed.

Dealing with the general public goes hand-in-hand with a career in the hospitality sector. But too much Christmas spirit can often dampen the ‘cheer’ of some members of the public. Staff should be given training about how to handle physical and verbal abuse that often accompanies drunk, disorderly behaviour.

A less obvious risk is that someone is struggling with their mental health. This can become more pronounced at Christmas. Additional workload, zero hours contracts and longer hours are synonymous with the hospitality sector at Christmas but it can take its toll. Be mindful that Christmas can be a lonely or difficult time for some.

In fact, according to HSE, 914,000 workers[4] suffered work-related stress, depression or anxiety last year. Employees have a duty of care to take care of employee mental wellbeing as well as protecting their physical safety. Staff aren’t just for Christmas so take care of them and they will be loyal and keep your diners and drinkers happy.

Read more about the dos and don’ts, to be hospitality HSE compliant.

Health and safety basics for your business (

Stay safe this Christmas.

Public or employee liability claims are always a concern for the hospitality sector. From employee claiming unfair dismissal or harassment, customers slipping on spilt food, a burn from an exposed candle or food poisoning, claims are a fact of life for hoteliers, restauranteurs, and pub landlords.

But if you have H&S procedures in place and are protected by employee and public liability insurance, hospitality owners have one less thing to worry about, allowing them to focus to what they do best – giving everyone a Christmas to remember for all the right reasons.

That’s why Irwell is proud to be the only liability insurer that offers a health and safety assessment as part of their service. We believe that you shouldn’t have one without the other.

[1] Second ‘lost Christmas’ for UK hospitality as Omicron hits sales | Hospitality industry | The Guardian

[2] Health and safety statistics (

[3] Health and safety statistics (

[4] Health and safety statistics (