It’s been a trying 12 months for manufacturing. Despite being amongst a small number of industries permitted to remain open during the pandemic, the sector hasn’t escaped the likes of furlough, redundancies, supply chain disruption and, lately, Brexit-related bureaucracy.

The positive news it that, by now, most manufacturers will be well-acquainted with the majority of COVID-19 challenges. You will know, for example, how to make a claim under the Job Support Scheme and what safety measures need to be in place. Encouragingly, recent figures seem to suggest that things are beginning to stabilise, with only 6.5% of manufacturing businesses planning redundancies in the next few months, and half believing they will achieve full operating levels by the end of 2021.

However, given the unknown variables of how the pandemic will play out and fears of a COVID-fuelled global recession, manufacturers should prepare for a prolonged recovery. Key components of any such plan will be streamlining your workforce, driving efficiencies and protecting your bottom line from unexpected costs.  

Here are three ways Ellis Whittam can support you.

1. Improving efficiencies

With the obvious financial pressures facing the sector, you will no doubt be turning your attention to streamlining. Are you efficient? Or are you laboring unnecessary costs and spending unnecessary time on issues that don’t add value?

In a time when:

  • The cost of raw materials is being squeezed by additional Brexit tariffs;
  • Production is slower due to social distancing measures, a reduced workforce and staff absences; and
  • Businesses need to be able to respond to fluctuating demand,

efficiency is vitally important.

Ask yourself:

  • Do you have the right personnel in your business?
  • Do you have the right people in the right areas?
  • Do you have people performing the same or very similar roles?
  • Are there knowledge gaps that need plugging?
  • Is the structure of your business geared for post-lockdown success?
  • Is your site now too big/inefficient?

It’s all about focusing your expenditure – and time – on those things that are revenue-driving. Ellis Whittam helps businesses to become more efficient by:

  • Providing responsive, solutions-focused advice on employee matters to help you resolve issues quickly;
  • Taking the burden out of health and safety management through market-leading software and dedicated consultant support; and
  • Drafting all your documentation, including contracts, handbooks and policies, on your behalf.

That way, you can keep costs down, continue to meet your responsibilities, and focus on what’s important.

Do you need support?

Speak to us for an honest, no obligation chat on:

0345 226 8393    Lines are open 9am – 5pm

2. Adjusting and making changes

Your workforce might look different than it did 12 months ago, or you may now be in the position of needing to restructure your team in order to adapt to the changing circumstances and position yourself for success. Here are some things to consider:

  1. If you have already had to cut some of your workforce, do you still have the skillset within the business to manage areas such as HR and health and safety? Perhaps you have a less experienced person now in post who requires additional support, or existing staff have absorbed some of this responsibility but aren’t fully confident or lack the necessary expertise and training. These areas will still need to be managed, and if you aren’t fully equipped to do this internally, you may need to consider more cost-efficient solutions. Ellis Whittam can act as an extension of your team, providing unlimited advice and support around your workforce issues and safety management responsibilities to free up valuable management time and keep you compliant.
  2. The UK Manufacturing Monitor reports a marginal rise in the share of manufacturers furloughing more than three-quarters of their workforce compared to the end of last year. As such, you may be anticipating a need to downsize or change how your organisation is structured once the Job Retention Scheme ends. Workforce restructuring and reorganisation is a significant exercise, involving changes to contractual terms and conditions, redeployment and possible redundancies. Our Employment Law specialists can guide you through the steps you need to take or, if you require more hands-on support, our HR Consultants can sit down with you to discuss your vision for your organisation, then project manage the process or fill in gaps in expertise.
  3. Now more than ever, there’s a need to be flexible both in terms of volume and product diversification. With this in mind, workforce agility – the ability to quickly move employees into new roles or areas of the organisation to support changing business needs – is essential. Is your workforce flexible enough? Are your premises sufficient? Are you changing your operations? Are your Contracts of Employment and Employee Handbook sufficient to allow you to make changes when needed? Similarly, changes to processes, activities, products, materials and locations may have changed your risk profile. Ellis Whittam can help you respond to these changes compliantly, ensuring your contracts are flexible and your environment remains safe.

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3. Claims protection

Our Employment Law Teams are currently seeing an increase in the number of Employment Tribunal claims brought against our manufacturing clients. Health and safety breaches, a lack of or inadequate PPE, and other COVID-related scenarios are already coming through. Add into the mix allegations of discrimination, workplace ‘banter’ that verges into harassment, and mismanaged redundancies, and the potential for employee claims is particularly high right now.

While in most cases employees can only claim unfair dismissal if they have a minimum of two years’ service, there are some exceptions to this rule. In the current climate, for example, those intent on bringing a claim may allege that they were dismissed for making a protected disclosure (‘whistleblowing’) relating to workplace health and safety concerns. These sorts of claims are ‘automatically unfair’, meaning there is no qualifying period of service, and employees may seek to exploit this legal loophole. What’s more, the compensation a Tribunal may award a claimant in these cases is uncapped, amplifying the threat to your bottom line.

At Ellis Whittam, we help employers to avoid the stress and expense of employee claims through a combination of expert advice, training, Legal Expenses Insurance and specialist Litigation support. With unlimited access to your own small team of dedicated Employment Law Advisers, you can proactively prevent employee issues, deal with problems quickly and compliantly, and ensure all necessary procedures are followed, thereby improving your claims defensibility.

In fact, not only are you c.77% less likely to encounter an Employment Tribunal when supported by Ellis Whittam, but in the event that you do, you are eight times more likely to successfully defend a claim compared to the national average.

Another way to protect against claims is through training – though, crucially, a recent harassment case has highlighted that outdated training won’t provide much of a defence. As such, if you haven’t refreshed your employee training recently, our fixed-fee service includes 12 months’ free access to 100+ e-Learning courses to keep your workforce up to speed with essential HR, compliance and health and safety topics.

Similarly, in the current climate, employers will need to be mindful of health and safety claims. During times of recession, claims go up, and COVID-19 is creating a hard insurance market, meaning premiums are increasing where claims are made on Employers Liability and Public Liability policies. The cost of these policies is huge relative to the cost of our support – in fact, by taking our Health & Safety service, you could see a 15% reduction in insurance costs, which effectively means it pays for itself.

“I’d just like to say that Ellis Whittam has been a great support throughout this pandemic. The online documents and phone service I have used have both been excellent and have really helped me through this awful time. It takes a lot for me to take time out of what is a very stressful busy time to send an email of this nature, but I feel it is truly deserved. You are doing a fantastic job, thank you.”

Business Manager, Euro Extrusions Ltd

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For more information about our support for the manufacturing sector, including help with any of the issues mentioned in this article, call 0345 226 8393 or request your free consultation using the button below.

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