The hotel industry in Australia is one of the most competitive sectors of the economy. The country is associated with over 10,000 hotels in different categories. The sector, therefore, employs thousands of workers directly while others access jobs indirectly through the extended supply chain framework (AHA, 2010). The highest source of revenue for most of the hotels is the sales from liquor, which accounts for over 50% of the generated profits. On the other hand, hotels with gambling units enjoy over 30% income from the different activities associated with the established facilities (AHA, 2010). Moreover, the total expenditure of hotels in the Australian economy averages to $515.6 million annually, which explains why the sector is a major contributor to the GDP of the country. The level of competition emanating from the local and global trends and the changing customer expectations has generated the need for an advanced approach to hotel management, which span through strategic planning and development, client services, and sustainable human resource management (Nankervis, 1990).
Moreover, the industry is subjected to regulations that govern the operability of the corporate affairs such as the interrelation with the customers, the suppliers, the shareholders, the states, and the employees. The existence of the regulations ensures that the operations of the hotels are within the local and international quality requirements (AHA, 2010). Such tendencies are mandatory for all investors in the sector irrespective of the scale of exploitation. One of the key concern in the sector is the contribution of employees to the level of success needed to generate growth and high revenue. Therefore, the big concern in the industry is an approach to human resource management that can encourage employee motivation and commitment to transform the performance outcome (Baum et al., 2016a). This paper presents a critical literature review regarding the level to which the hotel sector in Australia is practicing ethical staffing requirements. The paper looks at four key research publication regarding ethical staffing practices in the hotel industry in the country, where the discussion is based on the following two hypotheses.
H1: A fair treatment of all employees occur within the five-star hotels in Australia.
H2: Unethical and illegal practices of employing students prevail in Australian hotel industry.
The operations of hotels in Australia and other countries are governed by the enacted code of ethics relevant to the industry. One of the key guideline adopted among the developed economies is the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism and Hospitality Sector among the European countries. In Australia, the hotel sector is required to adhere to policies that guarantee effectiveness and ethics based on the interaction with the stakeholders. The Australian hotel investors are therefore required to ensure that the customer satisfaction is effective through efficient service and safety operations, employees are satisfied through the safe working environment, and that the suppliers and shareholders are contented through sustainable engagements.
Worth pointing out is that the relationship between the management and the employees in the hotel sector in the country are bound to requirements such as privacy, confidentiality, employee rights and privileges, safety and health, and fair compensation. The Australian Hotels Association has been instrumental in assisting the investors to adhere to the set standards and measures as described in the National Policy Industrial Relation codes. The organization plays a critical role in policy implementation in the country. Therefore, AHA plays a crucial role in developing, encouraging, and ensuring fair workplace relations that do not exploit employees (AHA, 2015). Moreover, the association protects the needs and interests of investors in the sector against unhealthy regulations.
Baum and the colleagues from major European countries (2016) carried out a thematic analysis of the correlation between sustainability needs based on the United Nations targets and the tourism and hospitality workforce. The scholars evaluated how the need for sustainable workforce and human resource practices in the hotel sector in the main countries such as Korea, China, Scotland, Australia, Malaysia, and New Zealand has been a dimension of the economy that has been neglected over the years (Baum et al., 2016). The researchers pointed out how the hotel sector employees are vulnerable to human resource malpractices.
Worth revisiting is that the employees in the hotel sector across the globe have been facing staffing challenges such as the poor working environment, lack of concern for gender and minority groups, overdependence on seasonal jobs, lack of established career structure, escalated labor turnover, and low work status (Wood, 1997; Lucas and Deery, 2004; Baum, 2007; Baum, 2015; Kusluvan et al., 2010; Baum et al., 2016b). The factors identified in the research had also been documented in other analysis specific to different countries. The level of implementation of the intervention mechanisms to guarantee sustainable human resource practice in the hotel sector has been contrary to the increasing challenges as noted in Australia and Scotland (Solnet et al., 2014).
Moreover, Nankervis (1993) examined the factors that are critical in enhancing the level of productivity in the Australian hotel sector. The study looked at the role of human resource management in improving the output of the industry. The research revealed that several factors have contributed to the inability of the sector to enhance the performance of the economy. Some of the identified shortcomings were market instability, oversupply accommodation, and human resource practices that limited employee productivity. Other factors such as gender imbalance and poor working environment also featured as elements of a degrading human resource management approach (Nankervis, 1993).
On the other hand, Poulston (2008) reviewed the working conditions of an employee in the hospitality sector. The study was based on the views of employees regarding their dissatisfaction levels. The evaluation process included the exploration of the hotel workplaces with the objective of determining the unfair practices, unethical activities, and illegal dealing and process that jeopardize the working environment. The study revealed how most hotels did not prioritize the hygiene factor for employee safety and health. The scholar also showed, based on qualitative analysis, how motivational interventions have little influence on performance and commitment of employees whenever their health and safety are at risk (Poulston, 2008).
Furthermore, Paulston (2010) also examined the implication of ethics in commercial hospitality based on the contribution and responsibility of the hotel managers in ensuring ethical standards. The research included the evaluation of the ethical problems associated with the hotel sector in the country. The study identified poor pay, unsafe working environment, sexual abuse among female staff, neglect, and lack of motivation as part of the unethical human resource practices that are overlooked in the hospitality sector across major economies such as Australia, New Zealand, Korea, and China (Paulston, 2010). The study concluded that the managers are aware of the unethical practices but are reluctant to take corrective measures.
The above studies have provided analytical details regarding the level of ethical practices in the hospitality sector. The studies have shown how the human resource approach in the hotel industry has been associated with several unethical practices. The working environment has been characterized by poor measures to encourage employee productivity. However, the level of implementation of the ethical practices differs based on the scale of operation of the hotels. Depending on the nature of the hotel sector in Australia, organizations can be classified into small scale and large scale enterprises. Most of the organizations operating on limited capital and market coverage find it a challenge to adhere to staffing ethics because of the cost of operation. Such tendencies encourage the increase in unethical behaviors. Moreover, in line with the qualitative analysis of the scholarly publications, business operating on high capital of investment such as the five-star hotels have the capacity to incorporate modern employee management practices that improve the working environment and the rate of turnover relevant to the targeted output.
On the other hand, the existence of ethical malpractice in the sector can be linked to the nature of recruitment and retention associated with the organization’s approach to human resource management. The research evaluation pointed the high number of female employees. The rate of discrimination and harassment is, therefore, a common phenomenon. Moreover, some of the organization have resorted to employing students through the work-study programs. The part-time employment of college students has encouraged the development of unethical practices such as poor remuneration, limited employee development approaches, and abuse of workers’ rights and privileges. Furthermore, most firms have inclined towards the hiring of semi-skilled workers based on the lower level of pay they will demand as opposed to trained professionals. The variability is seen for most small-scale hotels when compared to the five-star investments. Therefore, the possibility of unethical practices being advanced towards the uninformed workforce is high. Such tendencies are encouraged by the existence of poor sensitization programs within the working structure, which promote the prevalence of unethical staffing practices. There is a need for a comprehensive work structure to ensure that the employees are aware of their rights and privileges to understand their working environment and contribute towards safety, health, and development of workers and the organization.
Furthermore, Paulston’s studies in 2008 and 2010 pointed out the effect of human resource management approach. The conclusion of the survey showed that the administrators and managers have the tendency to neglect the implementation of corrective measures regardless of being aware of the unethical human resource practices. Factors such as the cost of implementation especially for small hotels as well as the perception of employees as a liability rather than an asset has encouraged such inclinations (Poulston, 2008; Poulston, 2010). However, the studies did not point to the negligence of the employees regarding the prevalence of unethical staffing practices in the hotel sector. The study only looked at the contribution of the manager in advancing the ethical malpractices. Employees may consider working in hostile environment whenever the option of leaving the job or raising the concerns regarding their experiences may jeopardize their job security. Such possibilities could also emanate from the lack of qualifications to seek alternative opportunities. Therefore, employees may choose to persevere the conditions, which is a situation the management can take advantage and neglect implementing transformational changes to improve working conditions. Such tendencies could explain the increasing hiring of college students and existence of part-time jobs in the sector as a measure to cut down the cost of operation.
In conclusion, the Australian hotel sector is one of the advanced hospitality industries in the world. The sector contributes to the economy development through employment and revenue generation. The existence of regulations regarding the framework of operation in the hotel sector is meant to ensure that the activities and the interaction between the business and the stakeholders are based on ethical standards. However, the Australian hospitality industry is associated with staffing malpractices that are against the employee-business guidelines. Although the five-star hotels and others operating on significant capital and serving extended size of the market have adhered to the required standards, some small hotels employ students and refer part-time employment as opposed to job security for the hired workers. Nevertheless, based on the reviewed studies, it is the responsibility of both the employees and the employer to ensure that the required working environment and productive relationships are established. The Australian Hotel Association has been keen in bridging the gap between the delivery of service and compliance with the set regulations and standards of human resource management. The organization ensures that the member hotels attain their profitability as well as achieve excellent employee satisfaction.
AHA, 2010. More than just a drink and flutter: An Overview of The Australian Hotels Industry April 2009. Available at: https://aha.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/PWC-Hotel-Industry-Report-20092.pdf
AHA, 2015. Policy Statement Industrial Relations. Available at: https://aha.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/AHA-National-Policy-Industrial-Relations.pdf
Baum, T., 2007. Human resources in tourism: Still waiting for change. Tour. Manag. Vol. 28, pp. 1383–1399.
Baum, T., 2015. Human resources in tourism: Still waiting for change - A 2015 reprise. Tour. Manag. Vol. 50, pp. 204–212.
Baum, T., Cheung, C., Haiyan Kong. H., Kralj, A., and Mooney, S., 2016a. Sustainability and the Tourism and Hospitality Workforce: A Thematic Analysis. Sustainability, Vol. 8, p. 809. Available at: www.mdpi.com/journal/sustainability
Baum, T., Kralj, A., Robinson, R., and Solnet, D., 2016b. Tourism workforce research: A review, taxonomy and agenda. Ann. Tour. Res. Vol. 60, pp. 1–22.
Kusluvan, S., Kusluvan, Z., Ilhan, I., and Buyruk, L., 2010. The human dimension: A review of human resource management issues in the tourism and hospitality industry. Cornell Hosp. Quart. Vol. 51, pp. 171–214.
Lucas, R. and Deery, M., 2004. Significant developments and emerging issues in human resource management. Int. J. Hosp. Manag. Vol. 23, pp. 459–472.
Nankervis, A. R., 1990. Servants or Service: Perspectives of the Australian Hotel Industry, Working Paper No. 73, August, School of Business, University of Western Sydney: Sydney.
Nankervis, A. R., 1993. Enhancing Productivity in the Australian Hotel Industry: The Role of Human Resource Management, Research and Practice in Human Resource Management, 1(1), 17-39.
Poulston, J. M., 2008. Working conditions in hospitality: Employees’ views of the dissatisfactory hygiene factors. Journal of Quality Assurance in Hospitality & Tourism, Vol. 10, Iss. 1., pp. 23 – 43.
Poulston, J. M., 2010. Ethics in commercial hospitality. Workshop working papers, Paper number 10292, CAUTHE. Available at: https://aut.researchgateway.ac.nz/bitstream/handle/10292/1605/CAUTHE.03.pdf?sequence=6
Solnet, D., Nickson, D., Robinson, R., Kralj, A., and Baum, T., 2014. Discourse about workforce development in tourism - An analysis of public policy, planning, and implementation in Australia and Scotland: Hot air or making a difference? Tour. Anal. Vol. 19, pp. 609–623.
Wood, R., 1997. Working in Hotels and Catering, 2nd ed.; International Thomson: London, UK.
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