The hospitality industry and modern slavery
This case study offers you something a little different from the other three because it does not focus on one particular company or issue. It therefore gives you a certain amount of scope to focus on an issue in hospitality that interests you. It is therefore, in some ways more challenging because it is less directed than the others, but also it is perhaps more exciting because it gives you a chance to explore different issues. It still asks you to think about ethical issues, but this time it is looser. You could look at issues of exploitation for hotel staff, about how hotels manage their supply chains, or about how hotels are often the site of human trafficking; your thinking will be about how easy it is to be ignorant of these, or even to turn a blind eye.
As with the other cases we will give you background based on selected reports and articles. There is a chance. Indeed a need, to do more of your own research. You will still be doing the same exercises – writing management report pointing out the ethical issues connected with running hotels and applying theory to whichever issue you focus on (and writing the leadership section, but that, of course is not connected to the case study).
A good place to start to think about what you would like to focus on is a report published in 2019 called Beyond Compliance in the Hotel Sector: A review of UK Modern Slavery Acts (Minderoo Foundation et al 2019). The report said that, despite UK legislation to report on modern slavery, 75% of hospitality businesses were failing in some aspect of what was required. The thrust of the report covers three aspects – people sex trafficked in hotel rooms, goods made for hotels that come from supply chains tainted with forced labour and sub-contracted workers at risk of abuse.
We recommend reading this report if you choose this case study. Issues to bear in mind are things like the extent to which hotels might be used for trafficking. One Canadian report noted American research which detailedthat 75% of human trafficking survivors report having some contact with hotels and motels during their trafficking (Luz 2020). Reports in this area can be quite disturbing of people forced into sexual exploitation. Stories tend to be reported when court cases result, but it is probably fair to say that the court cases are not indicative of the extent to which this happens. What we should note is that cases reported highlight the extent to which hotels were complicit through actually helping traffickers, or turning a blind eyeto what was happening (Kesslen 2019; Hee 2021). And, although these might be US courts cases, the UK Mail Online also drew attention to where a US case named six major hotel chains including Hilton and Marriott (Court 2019).
Hotels are also implicated in modern slavery for their own workforces, or perhaps more typically when cleaning and housekeeping are sub-contracted. Hotels under these circumstances may be unaware of what is happening to staff. The question is should they be. In the linked reports you will find stories of people who have had their workloads reassessed mid-contract to inevitably mean less pay and more work, who are paid less than minimum wages, are bullied and abused and, sometimes linked with the more clearly understood ideas of trafficking, where people have paid contacts on the promise of jobs which turn out to be indentured, bonded, modern day slavery. While this might seem more prevalent in hotels in other countries, the below reports will challenge you to think about whether that matters when the name of the hotel is an international brand, whether the excuse that the hotel in question was a franchise of the brand and not directly managed by the brand is enoughand the fact that actually it does happen in the UK as in the case of the Stewart Hotel in Argyll Scotland (Jethwa and Armstrong 2017). Linked also is a report on the experience of Latin American women migrant workers in London. One said “Cleaning companies working with hotels sometimes take your documents when you start to work as ransom. They keep your passport for months and some don’t even know that is not OK. We are told by our bosses that that’s the law in the UK” (de la Silva et al 2019: 7). The experience of these women typifies the extent to which people who are vulnerable, for whatever reason, can be preyed upon for profit.
Lastly the Beyond Compliance in the Hotel Sector: A review of UK Modern Slavery Acts (Minderoo Foundation et al 2019) talks about the extent to which hotels are knowledgeable about where the everyday items they use come from – how can they be sure their supply chains are slavery free? There are fewer stories with examples of where things have gone wrong, but the incidents of where hotels buy without knowledge (or checking) are probably more prevalent. If you are thinking about this issue it is probably worth looking at the week we do on supply chains.
But one thing is clear, this issue of exploitation in cleaning and housekeeping is often linked to cost cutting. It is startling obvious how this comes about – have a KPI for cost cutting and for productivity for room cleaning for example and the likelihood is that the brunt of the costs cut fall on the worker, in fact the report notes that one hotel chain recognises that underpayment can occur if ‘productivity rates for house-keeping contracts are ill-advised’ (Minderoo Foundation et al 2019:28). In other words decisions taken to hit KPIs within the hotel can have catastrophic impacts on other parts – and if that other part is a sub-contractor and the hotel then does not monitor what the impact is, it is no surprise when the experience of these six Polish women is exposed:
Cleaning at their hotel, like many services, is outsourced. Four months ago, as employees of Hotelcare, “where first-class service comes as standard”, they were paid £6.50 an hour to clean 13 rooms in eight hours, every day, five days a week– a long way short of the London living wage of £9.15 an hour. Then the contract was taken over by another cleaning services company, WGC, “servicing over 10 million hotel rooms a year”, including Claridges and the Hilton. The women say they were assured there would be no change. Now, they clean 15 to 17 bedrooms in seven and a half hours a day; more work, less pay.(Roberts, 2015)
This background was written using the following reports and articles. You will need to research this more. Below is some more direction to get you thinking about how you can write your research and ideas into the format required for the assessment.
Your assessment into two parts with part 1 being further split into two. Read the requirements below and attempt all three parts:
- You are now required to write a brief report to senior managers and you should imagine and play the role of anemployee who has been asked towrite a report outlining the ethical issue involved in running a hotel chain. Imagine your organisation both owns and manages its own hotels but also franchises its brand to other hotels. These could be in the UK or indeed anywhere in the world. The reports you have give a good background, now you should present at report outlining the case from the perspective of business ethics.
Why should your organisation be considering the issue you are focussing on from the perspective of ethics? What is the issue here do you think? Is it a lack of integrity? Transparency? Has it exploited someone or something? How would you characterise the ethical transgression? (It could be more than one thing)
How might this issueinfluence the public image of the company? What will be the result for the company if/when it is/was found out?
Like with the other case choices we are interested in how you tell your managers how you think business should define itself – should it be focussed on reducing costs and maximising income with little attention too wider costs? What alternatives ways are there to think about a business’ role in society? Is it for example shareholder value or the interests of a range of stakeholders? Think about who will benefit most if rooms are fully booked with few questions asked about what happens in those rooms (indeed isn’t a guests business private?), who benefits when costs are kept low either by sourcing cheaply or keeping cost like cleaning down? This is where we expect to see you using the ideas of Friedman and Freeman. Do not be afraid to argue in a nuanced way – it is highly unlikely that any organisation would actually condone some activities because it is financially beneficial to the hotel (no hotel would stand for trafficking if it knew it was happening in rooms), but can ‘we did not know’ be a strong enough defence?
There is a section asking you to examine who/what are the stakeholders impacted in the scenario you are reporting on and how are they impacted on? Think about who gained/lost WHEN you make decisions not to ask questions/to go with the cheapest contract tender and so on, not when a scandal is exposed.
Where are there examples of business that act responsibly and ones that do not? You should illustrate this by including research you can find e.g where is there research that shows good choices benefit companies and bad choices have a negative impact?We are looking for academic research first and foremost, examples of companies actions are OK but not without research showing – for example – that people want to work for companies that uphold values.
Finally you should conclude with some recommendations for what the company should do – a tip here is to pay particular note to the video guidance where concluding remarks for this section are covered.This part of your assessment should be written as a report, but should be referenced in the normal academic way using Harvard citations and referencing.
- For this part you should again use the case study – but this time choose TWO ethical theories (using ones we have looked at in class) and demonstrate that you can apply these to the case to show how your chosen theories lead you to a view on the ethics of the case. For example, if you applied utilitarian thinking to the idea of cutting quality to boost profit what would you need to consider and how might the issue look from that perspective? Or, what if you apply Kant’s thinking here? NOTE – you do NOT have to use ‘opposing’ ideas, we are interested most in how you use theory, if, when you apply two theories they seem to give the same answer that is fine, if they seem to give different outcomes that is fine too. This section is written in a more academic style than the report.
Part 2 is NOT related to the case study. This section requires you to discuss what makes an ethical leader and how you would, as an ethical manager, manage your business and/or others to a high ethical standard.
You will need to think about personal ethics, about the conditions that bring about unethical organisations and practices, about organisational values and methods of compliance. This part can be written in a more reflective style, where the first person can be used.
The word limit for this assessment is 3,000 words. This does NOT include any title page or bibliography.
You are allowed 10% of the word count (ie submissions can be up to 3,300 words_, submissions exceeding this will be subject to a penalty.
How the word count is used across the submission is up to you. A suggestion would be
- 1200 words
- 1000 words
Approx. 800 words
The exact proportions will vary and this is part of your challenge to write informatively and concisely across the required tasks.
How will we support you with your assessment?
- Assessment briefing videos
- Briefing material and guides in addition to the assessment brief (Please make sure that you read these)
- Dedicated seminar session on your formative assessment
- The chance to submit a formative outline of your ideas for feedback
- Prompt feedback session on your formative assessment and tutorial session to support the development of your summative assessment.
- Tutorial session to support the completion of your summative assessment in the final week of the semester.
How will your work be assessed?
Your work will be assessed by a subject expert who will use the marking grid provided in this assessment brief. When you access your marked work it is important that you reflect on the feedback so that you can use it to improve future assignments.
You MUST use the Harvard System. The Harvard system is very easy to use once you become familiar with it.
The Business School requires a digital version of all assignment submissions. These must be submitted via Turnitin on the module’s Moodle site. They must be submitted as a Word file (not as a pdf) and must not include scanned in text or text boxes. They must be submitted by 2pm on the given date. For further general details on coursework preparation refer to the online information.
Mitigating circumstances/what to do if you cannot submit a piece of work or attend your presentation
The University Mitigating Circumstances Policy can be found on the University website
Marking and feedback process
Between you handing in your work and then receiving your feedback and marks within 20 days, there are a number of quality assurance processes that we go through to ensure that students receive marks which reflects their work. A brief summary is provided below.
- Step One – The module and marking team meet to agree standards, expectations and how feedback will be provided.
- Step Two – A subject expert will mark your work using the criteria provided in the assessment brief.
- Step Three – A moderation meeting takes place where all members of the teaching and marking team will review the marking of others to confirm whether they agree with the mark and feedback.
- Step Four – Work at Levels 5 and 6 then goes to an external examiner who will review a sample of work to confirm that the marking between different staff is consistent and fair.
Step Five – Your mark and feedback is processed by the Office and made available to you.