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Hello 2021!

Hello 2021!
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2021 may not have started the way we hoped, but there's light at the end of the tunnel. At least we now have vaccines rolling out - and we have a trade deal with the EU!

Well, for a while, it looked as though we'd be starting 2021 off with a party and a bang, but the dreaded virus put paid to that for most of the country. It's not all doom and gloom though: Lockdown 3 may be upon us, but there's a lot to look forward to and it's not that far away!

So, what's changed? Well, Brexit is finally done and we now have a trade deal. Whilst there is a good deal of division over whether or not we should have remained part of the EU, the situation has now been finalised and, with that trade deal in place, we finally have some stability and clarity on which to base our business plans. This is great news for the economy which needs as much stability and clarity as possible as we begin to emerge from under the enormous strain the pandemic has put all of us under.

That said, in the short term things remain difficult, and Hastings, unfortunately, has seen a significant and worrying increase in the number of COVID cases. To give you an idea how much has changed, we took these figures from the Goverment's Coronavirus website:

In July, there were 11 positive tests in Hastings. By August it was 27. In September, 66 positive cases - quite an increase but by then the schools had gone back. By October, we had 166 positive cases in the Hastings area. In November, 326. In December, that number leapt to 3,035. Given these figures, it's not hard to see why were slapped into Tier 4 and then into lockdown.

The knock-on effect of this is all hospitality (apart from takeaway/delivery), and non-essential retail, are once again closed. Employees must work from home unless it is absolutely unavoidable, and all non-essential travel is banned. The result has impacted the job market to an extent as non-essential manufacturing has slowed as outlets are closed and demand drops. However, most manufacturing has remained open and busy – good news for the Hastings area which has a large demand for temporary workers in the engineering, manufacturing and logistics sectors.

“We’ve actually seen an increase in the overall demand for temporary workers as many factories are increasing their production rate. We’re also seeing the number of permanent and office-based vacancies starting to rise, slowly but consistently. There are several contributory factors for this, but we see the roll-out of the vaccination programme as key: businesses can see the beginning of the end in sight and so they’re making plans to enable the return to something like normality for their productivity. When the end is in sight, you start to make plans for it.” Jason Perry, Managing Director, ASL Recruitment

Lockdown has seen many employees back to working on their laptops at their kitchen tables. A key difference with this lockdown is fewer employees being furloughed: as there does seem to be a finite end to this lockdown, businesses are choosing to keep as much of their business open and running, putting preparations in place for when a full return to the office is allowed. The Job Retention Scheme (furlough) is still in place for those businesses choosing to reduce their staffing number temporarily or to close during this period.

 “There is an unfortunate issue we’ve seen with the furlough situation, an unforeseen and, I’m sure, unintended consequence of switching from the Job Support Scheme back to the Job Retention Scheme. The current scheme is available only to workers who were on the payroll on the 31st October 2020. If someone changed jobs and started with a company after this date, they are not eligible for the Furlough Scheme and yet, their employer may have closed during this period of lockdown.” – Kimberly Bradshaw, HR Consultant, ASL Recruitment 

For those businesses remaining open and requiring their staff to attend the premises, as a result of the new more virulent COVID strain, increased stringent measures have had to be introduced to ensure the safety of workers.

“As the new strain of COVID-19 is up to 70% more transmissible than the original, COVID measures that would have been sufficient in the summer will not be sufficient now. We are therefore urging all employers who have not already done so to conduct an urgent review of their measures to ensure they are fulfilling their Health & Safety requirements to keep their staff safe. If they have any doubts as to the measures they have in place, I urge them to seek advice from Health & Safety experts.” – Kimberly Bradshaw

On a positive note, the vaccination roll-out is now underway and this has been the key to a general mood of optimism in spite of lockdown restrictions.

"I can see we’re going to have a tough couple of months whilst the vaccination scheme really gets underway, but it’s going to make a big difference and we’ve already started to see the effects of that. I’m cautiously optimistic: yes, still some tough times ahead and we must, must follow the rules, but things are looking up. I believe 2021 is looking vastly more positive than 2020 and we’ll be hearing progressively better news as the year progresses.” Jason Perry. 

Jason and the team at ASL Recruitment would like to take this opportunity to wish candidates, clients and friends, a Happy New Year.

If you’re an employer looking for clarity on the ever-changing legislation COVID has brought us, join Jason and other business owners every Wednesday at 11 am for the Weekly Employers Conference Call and catch his weekly HR in 10 at 10 YouTube Live slot on a Thursday with HR Consultant, Kimberly Bradshaw, Spotlight HR. Email hastings@aslgroup.co.uk for your Zoom link.

ASL Recruitment was established in 1999 and has been serving Hastings and the surrounding area ever since placing temporary and permanent roles across a variety of sectors including Industrial and Manufacturing, Legal, Finance, Marketing, Technology and Office Support, from junior up to board level. Our co-founder and Managing Director, Jason Perry is a HR specialist and a Chartered Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. For further information on our recruitment or consultancy services, email hastings@aslgroup.co.uk or call us on 01424 452999.