Changes in Northern Ireland’s labour market are aligned with global post-pandemic trends, with the adoption of a ‘hybrid working’ model regarded as the best means of retaining and attracting talent.
The shift is a direct response to the ‘Great Resignation’ phenomena and the departure of migrant workers – both Covid-related – and was confirmed by a recent survey which revealed almost 40% of workers in the UK and Ireland are considering leaving or changing jobs within the next six months.
The realisation that many workplaces and ways of working have changed for the long-term were key outcomes of the International Agencies Conference, co-hosted by the Labour Relations Agency for NI (LRA) and its sister organisation in Ireland, the Workplace Relations Commission.
Bringing together counterparts from around the world, including the USA, Australia, Canada, GB and New Zealand, the virtual event shared best practice and learning from the Coronavirus pandemic.
“There are clearly worldwide trends, labour supply issues and new employment structures resulting from the pandemic,” commented Don Leeson, LRA Chief Executive.
“People are considering significant lifestyle changes in terms of their careers or are leaving the labour market completely. This is particularly true in Northern Ireland where the employment rate is decreasing faster that the unemployment rate is increasing.”
“The impact on key sectors such as manufacturing, hospitality and distribution is also of commonality across international labour markets and as a result, employers have no choice but change their approach.”
Don Leeson continued: “At a global level we are also witnessing the issue of pay disputes becoming a dominating factor, particularly in the USA and UK, where employers and trade unions are turning in larger numbers to the labour relations agencies to help resolve disputes where pay negotiations breakdown.”
The LRA, which advises and promotes good working practices across Northern Ireland, acknowledged that the pandemic-enforced ‘working from home’ model has impacted, sometimes positively, on the delivery of its own services.
“In the case of individual conciliation and training workshops, online delivery proved remarkably effective, creating efficiencies and environmental savings. While other services, such as mediation between employees and conciliation to resolve collective disputes, were more suitable for traditional face-to-face delivery,” Don added.
“At a global level, we agreed that success with these services often relies on our staff’s ability to ‘read the room’ and body language. This is another reason why a hybrid service delivery model – with some services delivered online and some in-person – is the likely future”.