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Enabling the Future of Work™

The Changing Face of the UK Labour Market

By Staffline

Background:

Uncertainty is bad for any business. One of the ways Staffline can help businesses and workers is by weathering the storms of uncertainty in the employment market. At our recent event, Enabling the Future of Work, Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), gave an excellent talk on the state of employment in the UK labour market and some of the things that are coming our way. This provided a great opportunity to show how Staffline are best placed to help all of our customers maximise the opportunities that are coming, whilst minimising the risks ahead.


Brexit - The Great Unknown:

Brexit is undoubtedly the main driver of uncertainty. It’s been almost 3 years since the EU Referendum and every day it seems we’re no closer to knowing the ultimate outcome. Regardless of where anyone stands on the issue, this uncertainty is bad for business and for employees.

There’s some evidence that Brexit has been shaping investment plans as companies try to hedge against all likely outcomes. One thing that’s more and more clear is that Brexit has mostly acted to amplify issues that already existed. Rather than causing problems it has simply made them more apparent. One issue Brexit brings is the right of existing EU workers to remain.

At Staffline, we offer comprehensive guidance to both our customers and candidates, including a Settled Status User Guide that provides step-by-step assistance to applying for settled status, reducing some of that Brexit uncertainty and ensuring that those who qualify can get the help they need to remain part of the British workforce.

The State of Play:

As it stands, the labour market is the tightest it’s been in living memory. Vacancies are high and labour supply is low. This manifests as difficulty in finding workers for businesses and a choice of work for employees. There are some headwinds – Germany and China are seeing economic slowdown and the effects of the Trump tax cut will soon diminish. The picture overall, however, is much more robust than most people think.

The economy remains unpredictable. Businesses overall are much more confident in their own firm than they are the wider economy. Perhaps worryingly, 80% of businesses report that they have no spare workforce capacity for an increase in demand. The market undoubtedly favours employees and competition for talent is high, even in entry-level roles.

Partnering with Staffline means that companies no longer have to worry about capacity. The size and scale of our national network of over 450 locations, combined with our trailblazing systems, ensures we can automatically adjust to and predict increases in demand, whether it’s permanent or seasonal, to ensure that any peaks and troughs are levelled out. We offer our workers assignments at over 1,750 of the UK’s best-known brands and our offer is sustainable employment, achieved through a vast range of clients, as workers move around from one client's peak period to another throughout the year, working when and where they want.


There Are No Workers:

One significant driver of the tight labour market is that the number of workers is falling. If we look at fertility and population statistics, as a nation we’re producing fewer people. Ever since the post-war Baby Boom, each generation has been in decline. This has led to a real squeeze, now that the Boomers’ grandchildren are the core of the working population.

This has been amplified by Brexit. The flow of workers from the EU, especially to cope with seasonal demand, has completely disappeared. This has not been replaced by non-EU migration, most of whom come here on family reunion visas rather than for work.

As the working age population continues to decline, companies that partner with Staffline can rest assured that they will always have the candidates they need. Our database of 500,000+ ready-to-work candidates gives our clients reassurance that we’ll find the right person for the right job. Additionally, our flexible working ethic and philosophy enables us to capture a younger audience, actively combating against the decline in working age population.


The Robots Are Coming, Still.

In 1963, then Labour-leader Harold Wilson was talking about the impending ‘Robot-Age of Britain’. It’s true that since then, a number of jobs have been taken over by technology. If you go back to the 1850s, 80% of people were employed in manufacturing and agriculture but today that number is less than 10%. Yet today we make more goods and grow more food. Despite increased automation, we have the highest employment since the 1970s.

Analysis of the job market shows that only around 10% of jobs are currently under threat from technology.

One robot that is already lightening the load is our AI chatbot, Flin. Flin can answer hundreds of thousands of candidate and clustomer queries simultaneously. Workers can ask questions such as ‘do you have any night shifts available this week?’ and Flin will match them to the most appropriate vacancy, taking location into account. Whilst this means that the time to hire is significantly reduced, it also allows us to consistently engage with both our candidates and future candidates.


Productivity Needs A Boost:

Since the financial crisis of 2008, productivity has flatlined. It hasn’t recovered to anywhere near the pre-crash levels and even the previous trend hasn’t continued. Productivity is in real need of a boost.

We can boost productivity in a number of ways. One problem is that wage levels, while now showing some upward movement, are still below where they were in 2008. Increasing pay alone can’t solve the problem. Instead we need to look deeper into what work means and how we give career growth and development in the modern world of flexible working.

Looking at ideas such as job redesign, non-wage benefits, better training to equip employees with skills to advance and even things such as how we advertise jobs can all bring benefits in terms of productivity. The opportunities are there to boost productivity massively, but we need to make sure we get it right.

Recently Staffline have been making significant investments in innovation and experience management.

Our people-centric approach allows us to offer the best possible candidate and customer experience and remains a key focus in the near-future. With this in mind, our unique Customer Feedback system (Have Your Say) actively monitors how employees are getting on in their job to maximise productivity and ensure any minor problems can be handled before they become major issues.


Politics Looms Large:

Of course, none of this is happening in a vacuum. Many politicians are talking about protecting and enhancing workers’ rights. This pressure is coming from the doorstep from members of the public who have seen the worst financial situation of any economic crisis. It has hit harder, lasted longer and cut deeper than even the Great Depression and all of this feeds into the mistrust of business that then gets fuelled further by the press.

From government we have tougher enforcement on things such as the National Minimum Wage, worker status and, soon, IR35 in the private sector. Adding to this is new legislation to remove the Swedish Derogation, change information and consultation rights and increase regulation on umbrella companies.

Potential future changes being mentioned include the right to request stable contracts, further changes to the apprenticeship levy and further increases to the minimum wage. If a change in government happened, then even more radical ideas could also find their way onto the table.

Even without knowing what a future government might decide to do, one thing is clear: partnering with Staffline is the simplest way of ensuring that any problems can be overcome. The best way to ensure a bright future is to face that future together.

To find out more about how Staffline can help you weather the storms of uncertainty, contact us today.


Watch this short clip below for a round-up of Neil's presentation, focusing in particular on the future of flexible working in the UK labour market, at our latest Enabling the Future of Work conference.

 

 


An Overview of Staffline:

Established in 1986, Staffline is now the UK’s largest recruiter and workforce provider, delivering OnSite workforce solutions to leading brands. We work in partnership with clients and candidates, meeting business needs and matching people with opportunities.

We specialise in large-scale recruitment, providing teams to help businesses succeed. Our support is flexible to meet changing demands.

We make the world of work simple, helping companies to find the right people and perform at their best. Our service and pricing are bespoke, and we offer complete protection on compliance and ethical standards.

Our OnSite services support a range of sectors including agriculture, food production, logistics, transport, manufacturing and the automotive sector. We’re based at over 400 sites nationwide and find work for over 60,000 people each day.

Our new technologies include the AI chat bot, delivering ‘always on’ communication, the Universe platform, a game-changing candidate interface, and industry-leading customer experience management programme ‘Have your Say’. These innovations drive our customer-centric approach. We lead where others follow.

The Staffline Group also includes leading public service provider PeoplePlus - which helps tens of thousands of unemployed and disadvantaged people find work each year.

Find out more at: www.staffline.co.uk


by Staffline

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