The Chamber works closely with businesses across all sizes and sectors to ensure that business views are represented to key local and national decision makers. To ensure every sector is represented the Chamber hosts two Area Councils, one in Worcestershire and one in Herefordshire. Each Area Council consists of 15 specialists from different sectors who meet six times a year to provide feedback from their respective professions. The feedback is then used to inform our economic reports and shape the policy activity we deliver to Member businesses. The Area Councils form a key part of our governance structure and have links to the Chamber Board. If you want to find out more about your sector representative or get in touch to ensure your views are shared by your rep at the next meeting, click here. Below is a summary of key sector updates from the latest Area Council meeting.
The impact of the lockdown on recruitment was immediate with most businesses putting all recruitment on hold. However, there were exceptions in high-demand sectors such as food and drink and online retail where temporary roles grew. As companies adapted to working from home, permanent recruitment began to grow again slowly. Virtual recruitment processes and remote on boarding have replaced previous procedures.
While the Job Retention scheme is still in place, it is difficult to accurately predict how many jobs may be lost in the Covid-19 crisis. As the level of support provided by the scheme is phased out some redundancies are expected.
The transition to remote working that businesses have been forced into may change employment in the UK going forward. It’s unlikely that workforces will continue to work remotely 100% of the time, but a shift towards more flexible working practices is likely to be accelerated by the crisis.
There has been a clear difference between how retailers have fared as a result of coronavirus. Those with a comprehensive online offering are likely to have benefited from a shift to online retail, which has been accelerated by the crisis. There has been an increase in retailers using their social media presence to demonstrate how socially responsible they are, for example, by donating to charity or supporting local people and events.
Before non-essential retail reopened on June 15, high street shops were having to ensure they conformed to social distancing and the Covid-19 Secure guidelines set out by government. Unfortunately, social distancing will create barriers for customers looking for ease and convenience so there may still be difficult times ahead for the high street.
The manufacturing sector has been severely affected by Covid-19, except for companies supplying to key sectors such as health and food. Some companies experienced a complete loss of sales when lockdown began and were forced to furlough most of their workforce. Others have kept production running but only achieved a fraction of their predicted sales. Some companies early in the crisis adapted their products to suit demand, supplying PPE and hand sanitizer when there were shortages.
As government guidelines were released about how to make workplaces safe, manufacturers have been implementing a range of measures to keep their staff safe. The use of PPE and hand sanitizers, staggering start times and maintaining social distancing have all helped.
Moving into June manufacturers have had mixed experiences depending on which sector they supply. Those supplying to the automotive and aerospace sectors have continued to experience weaker demand. Others have experienced a rapid bounce back and have surpassed their targets for June. The majority remain concerned that the level of sales will prove unsustainable in the coming months.
Overall, the financial services sector has been resilient to the worst effects of Covid-19. The transition to working from home has worked well and furloughing hasn’t been needed as demand for services has remained constant. Those applying for finance from banks have needed evidence to support their applications with the value of strong business plans becoming clear. Having seen the experiences of companies in different sectors, there is acknowledgement that sector-specific help could be needed as lockdown is eased.