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Plastics Industry Hit By Covid Staff Absences

British Plastics Federation

3 min read Partner content

BPF Survey Finds 78% of Plastics Companies Report Staff Absences Due to COVID-19.

A survey of members of the British Plastics Federation (BPF) has found that 78% of companies have staff absences due to the COVID-19, with an average of 8% of their workforce unable to work. The plastics industry is the third largest manufacturing sector in the UK, supplying a huge range of products that are crucial to many other sectors, so this could have a wider impact on the country’s economy if the situation does not improve.

The troubling statistic was reported as part of the BPF’s twice-yearly Business Conditions Survey, which quizzes the entire plastics supply chain, ranging from recyclers to machinery suppliers, on factors affecting their businesses. Conducted 5-14 January and published on 20 January 2022, the latest survey found a quarter (24%) of companies have at least 10% of staff currently on sick leave, with the number of reported absences growing during the second week of the survey. A third of companies (32%) have had to reduce production due to the impact of COVID-19 on staffing levels.

Staff absences are not the only challenges facing the plastics industry, which has also suffered much-publicised global material supply shortages. In April 2021, 97% of companies reported they were experiencing problems sourcing polymers. The situation has improved but remains concerning, with 60% still currently experiencing supply issues.

A record number of companies (80%) are experiencing difficulty recruiting staff, with shop floor workers proving the hardest to hire. With higher labour costs and the price of raw material and energy rising, profit margins remain under pressure, with 40% of companies reporting they will stay the same and 35% expecting them to decrease. More than a third of companies do not believe they will be able to pass on increased energy costs to their customers. Brexit is also yet to pay dividends, with only 6% reporting it has proved positive for their business.

BPF Membership Service Director Stephen Hunt states:

Clearly plastics companies are under a lot of pressure at the moment, with core business costs rising, difficulty recruiting and staff absences. The latter issue should improve with time but we continue to monitor energy and material price rises, supporting our members as much as we can. With the plastics industry being a major employer in the UK that is vital to almost every major sector, we hope the government takes note of this data and is prepared to provide support for businesses if it proves necessary. However, we know our members are doing everything they can to meet the demands of their customers.

The Business Conditions Survey was conducted in January 2022 and was completed by 88 companies from amongst the BPF’s membership. The full survey can be downloaded from the BPF website.

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