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Hospitality workers’ mental health affected by industry uncertainty


Anton McNulty

The general manager of one of Mayo’s premier luxury hotels says lack of certainty in the hospitality industry is affecting the mental health of many of its employees.
Niall Rochford, general manager of Ashford Castle and its sister hotel, The Lodge at Ashford Castle, tweeted his concern for staff before the country moved into Level 5 restrictions.
In his Twitter post, he said that in all his years of management he had ‘never experienced the level of mental health issues that I am seeing now amongst staff’, adding that An Taoiseach and An Tanáiste must take mental health into consideration when making ‘difficult decisions over the coming days’.
Speaking to The Mayo News, Mr Rochford said that strain on mental health was being felt not just by the 400 staff working in Ashford Castle but across the whole hospitality industry. He added that he has been getting positive feedback since he sent out the tweet, with people saying they were glad he was talking about it.
“People do not know what will happen in six weeks coming up to Christmas and a dark winter time. People are worried for their jobs and livelihood and health, and it is tough. I am a great believer in resilience, but certainly the mental wellbeing and mental health of a lot of people in the hospitality industry, which has been proportionally affected, is a concern.”
Under the current Level 5 restrictions, hotels, guesthouses and B&Bs may remain open, but only to support provision of essential services, with the vast majority now closed until the end of November.
Aiming for Level 2
While Ashford Castle and The Lodge at Ashford Castle both remained open at Level 3, Mr Rochford explained that 85 percent of hotels would have to close at Level 3, which is why he says it is essential for the industry to open at Level 2 in December.
“We need to be open at Level 2 and not Level 3. Level 3 will mean 85 percent of hotels and the hospitality business will not be able to reopen in December. We all have a part to play in this and follow all the guidelines and protocols and do the right thing over the next six weeks to see if we can get to Level 2 any time in the future.
“Our industry is on its knees to be honest, and it is very difficult, but we will play our part in this. We have always played our part in this, we are a very responsible industry and a responsible hotel, and we will continue to be so. I am in this industry for a long time, and this is as difficult as it has been. But we are resilient as well, and by God we will get out the other side,” he said.
A native of Limerick, Mr Rochford said that Ashford Castle’s owners are fortunate to be in a position to support their employees, and they will not be let go while the hotel is closed.
“We have our staff accommodation on site so we have 14 different nationalities who will continue to stay there and we will continue to ensure they are looked after.
“We will keep connected with our staff, creating lots of initiatives for physical wellbeing and mental-heath wellbeing. We have a Facebook page to keep our staff connected, and we are going to do different initiatives so the team member continues to be connected to us as a community and a hotel.”