Recruiting at a time of market change. By Andrew Forrest

Sometimes expansion in the manufacturing sector can take a business by surprise – a market changes and suddenly demand can shift. Therefore businesses in this sector have to ensure they are as flexible as possible and able to accommodate these changes, which may require the hiring of new staff at short notice.

Good personnel or HR management in terms of recruitment has always been based upon getting the right person with the right skills into the right job at both the right time and at the right cost. Whilst it is often difficult to obtain the ‘right’ candidate when recruiting for one post, the difficulties are multiplied seven fold when the recruitment exercise requires numerous appointments.

When faced with a market change that requires an expansion in headcount it is important for organisations to have in place recruiters who are well versed in employment practice to ensure fair processes are followed that are compliant with employment law. This is to avoid accusations of discrimination on the basis of ‘protected characteristics’ such as sex, race, age, disability etc., which can be costly in terms of reputation damage, time taken in dealing with such claims and subsequent Tribunal awards if a defence were to go wrong.

A good recruiter should understand the task in hand, be able to draft accurate job descriptions and person specifications and have the connections and infrastructure in place to ensure that the right people can be sourced within the necessary timeframe.

Agency workers option
In times of skill shortage or tight time constraints recruitment can prove an extremely challenging task and manufacturers may need to utilise the option of using Agency Workers as a quick fix until the ideal candidate(s) may be located. It may be however that a company is content to use the Agency Worker route as a means to an end with good workers progressing from being temporary to permanent employees over the passage of time. Indeed many organisations use time spent on temporary placement as an elongated form of probation.

Immigration considerations
Geography once resulted in local workers obtaining local jobs. The global economy has resulted in the greater mobility of labour within both the UK and wider European community where nationals of the European Economic Area are at liberty to benefit from the ‘free market’. To attract workers manufacturers need to have cognizance of the ‘going rate’ in terms of pay for certain skills and the benefits such as relocation allowances.

Should ‘acute’ skill shortages require nets to be cast further afield for the recruitment of nationals outside of the EEA then strict adherence must be given to Immigration legislation.

The UK government is set on ensuring that no jobs that could be done by an unemployed British worker are given to a migrant worker in preference. For this reason, an employer may only take migrant workers to fill a position that cannot be filled by the local workforce, either because it is listed on what is known as the ‘Shortage Occupation List’ (the SOL) or because the employer has advertised the job for a certain length of time and has received no suitable responses (this process is known as the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT)). The shortage occupation list can be downloaded from the UK Visas and Immigration website:

Any person who does not come from an EEA country or from one for whom there are exemptions must have Home Office Approval. This approval is granted by the issuing of a visa under one of the tiers of the UK points-based system.

Applying to employ someone under the tier system is a three-stage process in which the employer must:

  • Apply for a ‘sponsor licence’;
  • Submit the potential employee to a “points based assessment”; and
  • Gain approval from the Home Office and then issue the prospective employee with a sponsorship certificate to accompany their own application for a visa.

The tier system classifies the types of work that are beneficial to the UK economy. Migrant workers who can fulfil the criteria for any of these tiers can apply to live and work in the UK. If they are successful, they will be given a visa to enable them to carry out the work specified for a limited time. Most migrant workers are employed in the UK under Tier 2 (General). The time taken to comply with the legislation can result in delays to the recruitment process.

Social media
The advent of social media has provided employers with a new platform to locate a potential workforce. Adverts in newspapers and magazines may still play their part in the recruitment process but it is the internet, Linked In, Facebook and Twitter which in recent years has attracted the attention of those more savvy with information technology. It is here that the employer must exercise caution in advertising roles. A job advert should attract worthy candidates whilst at the same time act as a deterrent to those who may not have the skill sets and attributes being sought. Whilst it is nice for many to wish to work for a company equally it can be time consuming to trawl through numerous unnecessary applications.

The long and short listing process should be free of discriminatory practice with those selecting adhering to criteria, which can be objectively justified. This is particularly important in a large-scale recruitment exercise where applicants may be rejected on the narrowest of margins. It is good practice therefore to have staff trained in their roles, to understand and to adhere to a company’s equality and ethics policies and to undertake a validation exercise to ensure that good practice is being adhered to.

When operating to tight time scales it is essential that the recruiter adopts a right first time approach, this to ensure that the best candidates are selected in terms of skills, knowledge, ability and, fit. There are numerous methods of selection that can be undertaken ranging from psychometric testing to interviews. Interviews are by their very nature subjective and time should be spent pre and post interview in determining the questions and what scoring should be awarded for answers received.

Applicants with disabilities are protected by the law and care should be taken to avoid discriminatory practice. Applicants should be offered employment based on their merits and if it is believed that a mental or physical impairment may impact upon a person’s ability to undertake the role and place the job seeker at a substantial disadvantage then offers made should be subject to medical examination by Occupational Health to see what reasonable adjustments can be made. Reasonable adjustments may also be required to assist a disabled applicant during the actual recruitment process, the adjustments are not solely linked to access to premises etc. Some application processes may involve assessment tests or interviews. These processes should not unreasonably disadvantage disabled people.

Care should also be taken in recruitment exercises that potential employees are in fact free to join the organisation. Some applicants may have post termination restrictions in their contract that prevent them from working for a competitor of the organisation they work(ed) for prior to termination. Such covenants can be legally enforceable and the recruitment of a person into a position in breach of such a restriction may result in a damages claim against the company or alternatively to avoid a breach, a delay before the person can be employed in the role. The advice in this situation would be to seek legal opinion before any job offer is made.

Recruiters also need to be aware of notice clauses in existing contracts as prospective employees may be contractually bound to
their outgoing employer for periods in excess of the time frames the recruiting organisation is working to.

Whether recruiting from within the UK or overseas nationals the employer needs to give thought to induction and in particular health and safety. It is essential that workers understand the risk of workplace hazards and how to operate safe systems of work using the correct PPE. Signage is a recognised method of overcoming language barriers that may exist.

Induction and probation also enables the employer to have a closer scrutiny of new employees and to take action to address matters if a wrong choice has been made.

Andrew Forrest

Andrew ForrestAndrew Forrest is Associate in the Employment, Pensions and Immigration team at Weightmans LLP, a top 40 law firm with over 1300 people across offices in Birmingham, Dartford, Glasgow, Knutsford, Leicester, Liverpool, Leeds, London and Manchester. Weightmans is dedicated to providing results for its clients and success for its people.