Tempted to template?

Using templates to rota hospitality teams

The use of rota templates in the hospitality industry can be divisive. They speed up the rota-writing process, but the risk is that the team become lazy and merely load a template and publish the rota. It’s quick and efficient, but not necessarily optimising the business and managing the labour cost.

For some, the idea of using a template rota has other drawbacks, including inflexibility, with staff preferences being lost in the mix. I am in the opposite camp. For me, the best way to write a rota is to start with a template, probably one that has been written with a lot of thought and refinement and at the nearest sales level below the target for the week.

For example, if you are forecasting a 25k week, you load the rota for a 20k week. Then, some time and energy can be spent refining that rota. You can adjust the kitchen team if someone is on holiday, find extra staff for that Saturday afternoon event, add someone onto a Saturday night to excel at service delivery and spend per head, and remove a few midweek shifts to meet the budget. Creating rotas this way gives assurance that you have enough staff to match demand and optimise business, whilst giving the flexibility needed for different occasions and different staff.

With improvements to the S4labour system, you can load template rotas by department with the team already assigned, or you can drag and drop the right people against the right shifts. You have visibility of deployment, and can stay on top of labour costs. Now, over 70% of rotas are written using templates, up from around 40% historically. Across the industry, operators are reducing rota-writing speed and refining output.

The Job Support Scheme – How Does It Work

This Saturday is Halloween and, while prior years have seen the importance of this event increase for our sector, this year will be a markedly different… but I feel like I have been saying that a lot recently. The bigger scare might have come from the end of the Furlough scheme but luckily it is being replaced by the (newly enhanced) Job Support Scheme, the next phase of government support for employees. So how does it work?


Open & Closed

 The scheme is split into two elements; the open version that is designed for businesses with reduced trade and the closed version that is aimed at business that are forced to closed due to government restrictions.


Employer Eligibility

There are various criteria set out that define eligibility for each scheme. Both schemes require the company to have enrolled for PAYE online and to have a UK bank account.


For the closed scheme eligibility is defined as follows:

Businesses that are forced to close due to coronavirus restrictions set by one or more of the four UK governments. For the closed scheme, claims can only be made for the time where the forced closure was in place.


For the open scheme it depends on the size of the business. If you are under 250 employees you are eligible. If you are over 250 employees you need to go through a financial impact test. Details of the test are available on the gov.uk website but can broadly be summarised as – if July-Sept revenue in 2020 was lower than the same period in 2019 you are eligible (there are nuances though so do check). This does also imply that if you have more that 250 employees and were not trading in 2019 (i.e. a newly formed business) you would not be eligible, although we have not had this confirmed.


Employers can claim for both schemes at the same time, as they may have multiple sites affected in different ways.


Employee Eligibility 

Employees are eligible if they were on an RTI submission to HMRC prior to the 23rd September. Employees are no longer eligible if they are serving notice or have been made redundant.


To claim on the closed scheme the employee should not be working for the period of time they are claiming for.


To claim on the open scheme the employee needs to work at least 20% of their usual hours.


Employees cannot, therefore, be on both schemes on the same day.


Any employee placed on either scheme needs to have the agreement confirmed to them in writing and this agreement needs to last a minimum of 7days.


Claim amounts 

For the closed scheme the employee should receive 66.6% of their usual pay, capped at a maximum of £2083.33 per month. All of this can be claimed back from the government.


For the open scheme the government will pay 62.5% of the difference between their usual hours and their actual hours up to a maximum of £1541.75 per month. The employer is required to pay 5% of the difference up to a maximum of £125.


For either scheme the employer can choose to top up the employee if they so wish. The employer is also liable for NI, pension and holiday accrual.


Usual Pay and Usual Hours 

This is more complicated than it was for furlough although broadly calculated on the same principles.


For Salary it is the higher of their March 2020 or Sept 2020 salary and hours.


For variable pay staff it is the higher of:


  • Tax year 2019/20 average pay/hours
  • Comparable calendar period from last year pay/hours
  • Average pay/hours worked from the 1st Feb 2020 to the 23rd Sept (or from when the employee started if later)
  • This should include any hours paid as annual or statutory leave.



Exact guidance has not been given on holiday, it is therefore assumed (for now) that employees can take holiday while on the agreement and it will be treated in a similar way to furlough, i.e.;


  1. Closed scheme
    1. Government pay 66.7% of usual pay up to a cap of £2083.33 and the employer is required to top it up to their usual pay.
  2. Open scheme
    1. If no hours worked and holiday does not exceed 20% of usual hours
      1. Employer pays for holiday
    2. If no hours worked and holiday hours exceed 20% of usual hours
      1. Employer has to pay 20% of usual hours
      2. Government will contribute 62.5% of the remaining 80% up to a cap of £1541.75
  • Employer will contribute 5% up to a cap of £125
  1. Employer tops up the difference to ensure employee receives usual pay
  1. If less than 20% of usual hours worked
    1. Employer pays difference of hours worked to 20% of usual hours
    2. Government will contribute 62.5% of the remaining 80% up to a cap of £1541.75
  • Employer will contribute 5% up to a cap of £125
  1. Employer tops up the difference to ensure employee receives usual pay
  1. If more than 20% of usual hours worked
    1. Government will contribute 62.5% of the difference between hours worked and usual hours up to a cap of £1541.75
    2. Employer will contribute 5% up to a cap of £125
  • Employer tops up the difference to ensure employee receives usual pay



The claims process opens on the 8th December so this will need to be funded out of cashflow until the grants are received.



The improved version of the JSS is a big improvement for the sector on the previous version and should be seriously considered by most operators. We would recommend talking to your scheduling/payroll provider and getting an early understanding of how they will support you.


Government has also stated that they will update a number of their points of advice by the end of October. This hasn’t been released yet, but we will update when it has. Hopefully this won’t be the Halloween scare, we’ve suffered enough.


If anyone would like clarification on any of the above points, please get in touch by emailing richard@s4labour.co.uk


Richard Hartley

Chief Product Officer & Pumpkin Carver

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