Manufacturing - a working world

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Article

07 June, 2021

Several senior leaders in the manufacturing industry have noted modest or even significant growth throughout the global pandemic. Due to the nature of the market, the unprecedented supply of manufactured products has accelerated an increase in demand for products and economic growth, as a result, we have seen a demand for higher-skilled employees. The commercial reality is that coronavirus challenged business owners innovate changes in technology prompting a change in company skills and labour. Specifically, moving forward manufacturers are going to need employees who are highly skilled in technology, data science, and engineering. The skills gap is anticipated to open up over 2million jobs in the future with attractive salaries and opportunities.

The adaption in workforce requirements has also resulted in the restructuring and reorganisation of businesses, which may in turn prompt employers to consider redundancies. When job descriptions are revised, employers should consider whether or not the affected employees have to be offered redundancy as an alternative to accepting a 'suitable' new role. Whether the role is deemed suitable at law is contingent on a number of factors, including the employee's skills and experience and the terms of the alternative job (status, place of work, job duties, pay, hours and responsibility). Employers should clearly document the company restructure and reorganisation to mitigate their involvement in any employee dismissal claims, seeking legal advice where necessary.

The requirement to adapt to change has been at the forefront of the needs of employees who have had to accommodate changes in the workplace with their personal circumstances. As a result, employers are seeing an increase in remote working and flexible working requests. These arrangements may be cost-effective for businesses, increasing efficiency, reducing overheads and sick days, and boosting staff morale. From an innovation perspective, manufacturers offering remote and flexible working may also attract and retain a high level of skilled workforce. Accommodating these requests may therefore enable business owners to maintain a competitive advantage in the market.

Employers should however be aware that accommodating these requests may have an adverse impact on manufacturing projects and compliance with time restrictive deadlines. There are also liability and security concerns for business owners to consider with colleagues who find themselves working early or later hours, particularly on-site. Flexible scheduling may also result in employees and workers clocking additional and unexpected overtime, which may be an additional and unexpected cost for many business owners.

Employers should also be aware of changes to health and safety regulations to be implemented from the 31st of May 2021. The changes in legislation mean that 'workers' as well as employees will gain the right not to be subjected to a detriment in health and safety at work cases. S44 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 currently protects employees against any detriment for leaving or refusing to return to work or taking appropriate steps to protect themselves or others, where they have a reasonable belief that they are in serious or imminent danger that they could not reasonably be expected to avert. S100 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 also protects employees from unfair dismissal when asserting their safety rights. These legislative changes now afford protection to lower-paid and lower-skilled workers, many of which are commonly found in the manufacturing sector. Businesses, therefore are encouraged to be vigilant with both onsite and offsite workers and should perform detailed and thorough risk assessments for both home and off-site workers (including those returning to work). Employers should be responsible for employee and worker concerns and are advised to keep a record of documents and other evidence that they are following ongoing government advice.

For more information contact Andrew Halpin in our Manufacturing & Engineering department via email or phone on 01772 220239. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

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