Member Article

Modern Manufacturing in the North East.

EEF has just started a significant piece of new research on the Modern Manufacturing Workplace. It will examine what drives manufacturers’ need for flexibility, how they seek to achieve it, what is good and bad about the UK for securing flexibility and whether the trend is moving in the right direction. Companies in the North East will be taking part in this research.

The research will feed into EEF’s representation with government to ensure it delivers on its goals of developing a more effective approach to regulation and reducing the burden of regulation on business. But we will also looking at the wider range of ways that employers create the agile and flexible workforces that they need. These include manufacturers’ investment in skills, how they communicate with their workforce and how they involve it in their drive to secure change in their business.

However, an important lesson for government is the need to give businesses the breathing space to develop their own solutions to these issues, rather than imposing bureaucratic and inflexible approaches on them. The reality so far has been that we have seen more rather than less employment regulation with new rules on Agency Workers, new provisions for flexible working and the abolition of the Default Retirement Age. But there is now the odd sign of the tide turning. The Budget contained some modest burden–reducing measures on dual discrimination, the rights to request flexible and time off for training and a three year moratorium on new regulations for micro firms.

Over a slightly shorter time frame, the government’s Red Tape Challenge has set up a website through which businesses, representative organisations and members of the public can challenge existing regulations. There is a three month window to comment on economy-wide issues such as employment, pensions and health and safety but a much shorter one in the last two weeks of June to feed in views on how regulation affects manufacturing specifically. EEF will be playing a full part in these initiatives and I would urge all North East manufacturers to get involved.

Reducing the burden of regulation will not be easy – governments of all shades have talked about it for decades but have usually ended up delivering very little. But our NE manufacturers can help to achieve a change. The two key ways to do this are to take part in the Red Tape Challenge and to sign up to EEF’s programme to get civil servants to understand manufacturing better by hosting visits. Details on both of these can be found on our website at

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Tony Sarginson .

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