The outbreak of COVID-19 and subsequent global pandemic has had a dramatic impact on the labour market and on employment. The unprecedented national lockdown and subsequent suspension in economic activity saw government introduce a wage subsidy scheme to prop up businesses and protect jobs, in the absence of market demand and many ‘business as usual’ products and services.
The Chamber is keen to understand the impact of COVID-19 on employment and more specifically how businesses expect their workforce to change in the coming months.
The Employment Survey report produced will allow businesses to benchmark their response to COVID-19 and identify the courses of action taken by other businesses to manage this crisis. The report will form a useful evidence base for informed decision making in the coming months, particularly for HR professionals formulating employment strategies.
The latest national statistics paint an increasingly concerning picture. Although the unemployment rate has only risen slightly to 4.1%, the highest increase in redundancy numbers since 2009 were recorded between May and July. With an estimated 5 million people still temporarily away from work in July, including furloughed workers, the unemployment figure is likely to rise as the Job Retention Scheme is phased out.
On a local level, the results from the Chamber’s latest Quarterly Economic Survey suggest that 1 in 4 businesses in Herefordshire and Worcestershire decreased their workforce in the last 3 months.
Sharon Smith, CEO, Herefordshire & Worcestershire Chamber of Commerce said: “We know that people and skills are at the heart of every business. This global pandemic and the legacy it will leave in regard to employment and the labour market cannot be understated. Businesses are operating in unprecedented circumstances and need localised insights into how other organisations are managing this crisis and mitigating against risks to their workforce. I encourage businesses from across the two counties to take part and to use the subsequent report to inform their HR strategies and plans for the future”.
Richard Lane, Managing Director, EBC Group said: “The global pandemic brought many dramatic changes to the way businesses and their teams work. The swift transition to remote working meant an unprecedented demand for technology that would enable organisations to continue to function in an efficient way. From video conferencing to collaboration software, organisations adopted new technology to suit their new circumstances. The 2020 employment survey will provide a unique insight into how businesses adapted during the pandemic and vitally what their plans are for the future.”
Laura Hewett, Director, Hewett Recruitment said: “Throughout the pandemic, we have seen businesses from across the two counties come together to support each other. Local businesses are keen to benchmark how other companies are dealing with their staff and the employment issues raised by the Covid-19 crisis. This survey offers the opportunity for businesses to share insights into how they have responded to this unprecedent challenge and the opportunity to learn from others. The more businesses that complete the survey, the more strongly the report will give an indicator of trends, making it all the more powerful.