Northern Ireland labour market ‘following global post-Covid trends’

Northern Ireland labour market 'following global post-Covid trends'

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, a conference as heard.

The International Agencies Conference was co-hosted by the Labour Relations Agency for NI (LRA) and its sister organisation south of the border, the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).

The conference heard that the ‘Great Resignation’ phenomena and the departure of migrant workers, both products of the Covid-19 pandemic, were confirmed by a recent survey which revealed almost 40 per cent of workers in the UK and Ireland are considering leaving or changing jobs within the next six months.

Bringing together counterparts from around the world, including the USA, Australia, Canada, Great Britain and New Zealand, the virtual event shared best practice and learning from the Coronavirus pandemic.

Don Leeson, chief executive of the Labour Relations Agency, said: “There are clearly worldwide trends, labour supply issues and new employment structures resulting from the pandemic.

“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.”

He added: “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 NI, 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,” Mr Leeson said.

“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”.

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