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HR in the manufacturing sector

The best way to increase your workers’ productivity is to make sure they’re happy, motivated and safe. This means that HR management in the manufacturing sector is hands-on and complex.

Some of the issues you might face on a regular basis include:

  • Managing workers’ performance
  • Avoiding discrimination among a diverse workforce
  • Making sure workers follow health & safety procedures

In an industry where heavy machinery and dangerous materials are commonplace, health & safety in particular is a major issue.

According to the Labour Force Survey, over the past five years there were more than 3,100 reports of serious injuries and over 4,100 reports of injuries that led to workers being away from work for seven days or more.

Issues we’ve dealt with before

Our advice line is open 24/7, so our 2911 clients in the manufacturing industry can call us whenever they need our help. Most cases take us less than a day to solve.

Here are some of the issues we’ve helped resolve:

  • “I want to introduce random drug testing.”

    Before you start carrying out drug tests, you’ll need a drug test policy. This will help prevent individual employees from thinking you’re singling them out.

    We can help you draft a clear, legally binding policy. This would outline your reasons for carrying out the tests, and the consequences of testing positive.

  • “I’ve received a complaint that a manager has been making inappropriate comments. What should I do?”

    The manager’s comments could be classed as harassment.

    We’ll come to your premises and help you carry out a thorough investigation. If we find that the manager’s behaviour has gone against your harassment policy—which we can also help you draft—we’ll hold a disciplinary meeting on your behalf.

    You would then decide the next step—perhaps a stern warning, or requiring them to have equality training.

  • Two employees got into a fist fight at work. Can I dismiss them?

    In short, yes. Fighting at work can be seen as gross misconduct, and could even breach health & safety rules.

    But before you take action, we could mediate between you and the employees to find out exactly what happened. This will allow them to talk freely and feel like they’re being listened to.

    One of them may have had a spotless record before the fight, so an instant dismissal may lead to a tribunal claim.

  • A member of my team is consistently failing to meet targets. How do I manage this?

    The first step is to find out why the employee is struggling. We can help you conduct a capability review, where we:

    • Ask the employee what the problem is
    • Let them know they aren't meeting targets
    • Give them a performance improvement plan that gives them a reasonable amount of time to improve
    • Ensure they get all the necessary training and support

    If they fail to improve, we can repeat the above steps. However, if they continue to lag behind, this could result in a fair capability dismissal.

Real-life cases

Factory ‘banter’ leads to £10,000 compensation award

An employee at a biscuit factory was celebrating her 40th birthday. While at work, she received a card from her colleagues that included a lewd comment from her manager, who had also been subjecting her to daily sexual comments about her appearance.

The card was the last straw—she resigned and claimed sexual harassment.

The manager defended his comments by saying the employee herself joined in the workplace banter—a word that’s often used these days to excuse horrible behaviour.

The tribunal dismissed this, finding that comments of a personal nature were different to general banter.

As the employee did not ask for these comments, this created a hostile work environment. The judge upheld her claim and awarded her £10,000 in compensation.

One-off comment ruled as sex discrimination

A company asked a female employee to move to another site. She didn’t want to move to the new workplace, because it meant she’d be working with colleagues who she’d complained about in the past.

While discussing this with her manager, she became upset. In a misguided attempt to reassure her, he said, “Women take things more emotionally, while men tend to forget things and move on.” Because of this comment, the employee went off sick with stress, and the company dismissed her.

At the tribunal, the judge ruled that the manager’s one-off comment constituted sex discrimination. Since the employee suffering a mental breakdown after the comment, the judge awarded her £360,000.

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