Chamber Employment Report 2020-21 reveals extent of challenges faced by local businesses

The Herefordshire and Worcestershire Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with EBC Group and Hewett Recruitment, have released their Employment Report 2020-21.

The report reveals the impact of Covid-19 on employment and recruitment as well as investigating how businesses have fared with remote working and how the pandemic may change the future of work.

2020 has been a significantly challenging year for businesses within Herefordshire and Worcestershire but the economic support from government has helped many businesses survive the worst pandemic in over a century. 42% of businesses said their use of the Job Retention Scheme had prevented the need for redundancies. However, the Job Retention Scheme alone couldn’t prevent all redundancies. 27% of local businesses have made redundancies because of the pandemic.

According to the Office of National Statistics, national redundancies reached a record high of 370,000 in the three months to October 2020, an increase of a record 217,000 on the quarter. The record redundancies highlight the continued impact of Covid-19 on the UK economy. However, with the Job Retention Scheme now extended till April 2021 and a sense of hope coming from the rollout of vaccines, businesses remain hopeful that 2021 will be an improved year and one where they are able to start their recovery.

The Covid-19 pandemic has also changed the way we work, with an increase in remote working. Social distancing has meant businesses have had to invest in making offices and workplaces Covid-19 secure and have encouraged staff members to work remotely where possible. Businesses have had to invest large sums in IT devices for staff members to be able to work from home remotely. 85% of businesses who filled in the Chamber’s Employment Report experienced at least one challenge of remote working although 78% of businesses who could work remotely experienced at least one benefit of remote working.

Sharon Smith, CEO of Herefordshire & Worcestershire Chamber of Commerce, commented: “Among the barriers to growth that businesses have been faced with over the past 12 months, one of the biggest challenges has been managing the process of remote working. With so much significance placed on staff wellbeing as well as infrastructure issues, businesses across the two counties have shown adaptability and innovation in how they are currently looking after their workforce.

“The Employment Report will give a glimpse at how other businesses have managed the impact of the pandemic on their staff and recruitment and how they have addressed the issue of switching to remote working and the future of this over the next 12 months.”

Laura Hewett, Hewett Recruitment, added: “My thanks to all the businesses who took the time to contribute to the survey, especially given there has been so much else going on. A strong theme that came out of discussions through our recent (virtual) HR conference in partnership with the Chamber, was the importance of keeping people at the centre of our business. We have all faced so many challenges in 2020, having to rethink, restructure, even restart in some cases – but whatever we are trying to achieve, whether that is to survive or thrive and grow in a Covid and post-Covid world, our people will be our enablers for that.”

Richard Lane, EBC Group, said: “Remote and flexible working, which was already on the rise prior to the pandemic, was suddenly thrust upon companies, many whose HR procedures and technology were not prepared. However, although companies have faced significant challenges, many have been able to use it as an opportunity to change the way they work and have seen benefits from their new approach. For most businesses, it has brought at least one benefit, with work/life balance recognised as the main one.”

Overall businesses across the two counties have experienced significant challenges this year due to Covid-19 and EU Exit, however the Chamber remain hopeful that 2021 will serve better opportunities and help us kickstart the local economy for businesses to prosper and achieve growth.

The Employment Report will allow businesses to benchmark their responses to the challenges risen from home working during the pandemic as give an insight as to how other businesses are managing this process.

To download a free version of the report please visit https://hwchamber.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Employment-Survey-Report-2020-SPREADS.pdf.