‘Extended trial periods for workers’ proposal: a call for opinions

Recently, I watched an interview that the Financial Times carried out with The Confederation of British Industry’s new Director General, John Cridland. It was very interesting, and is worth watching if you have the time and inclination to do so.

Cridland  asserted that with the consumer being “chastened” and the government concerned with the public sector, the private sector had to take the lead in the recovery. He said that there were three things that business needed to do – invest, export and create jobs – and that in each area, there was a key role for the government to play.

When probed further about what the government needed to do in order to promote these, Cridland said of the job market that the government must “remove any barriers that get in the way of businesses, and particularly small businesses, employing people. There are key changes to employment law, like giving businesses a couple of years to judge whether they’ve got the right person, which will make a real difference to whether a business is prepared to take the risk of taking somebody on.”

I was intrigued by this statement. I’ve been learning about the EU employment regulations recently as part of my GDL (which was interesting in itself, as I’d previously covered them from a political perspective as part of my degree) and have seen the feelings they inspire from all quarters.

I have spoken to people who employ workers, who have said that a move in this direction would indeed be useful for them, as would a relaxation of other employment laws such as those covering maternity and its related areas.
I’ve spoken to some employers who accept that it can be difficult on occasion, but that an equal and fair society is worth the inconvenience and that competent hirers and managers should be untroubled by employment law.
I’ve spoken to employment lawyers who feel that despite regulation being weighted slightly in favour of workers, the business world can cope and needs to be regulated against to maintain fairness.

I agree that fairness is the ultimately desirable goal, and that the concept of a two-year trial period probably goes against that ideal. But is pragmatism required in times of struggle for business? If enterprises are being asked to lead the recovery, should they not be given every help to do this? On the other hand, consumer spending will also be a trigger for recovery. For consumers to spend, they’ll need to feel secure in their employment, and therefore long trial periods might not be the way to encourage that feeling.

It’s a fine line to be drawn, and it’s the CBI’s job to argue solidly in the interests of its members. I’d be interested to hear the opinions of people to whom this might affect, to see if they think it would make a practical difference to their work. I nearly didn’t publish this blogpost because it’s not a field where I can give opinions that are based on anything other than observation. I’m applying for Training Contracts at the moment which are two years in length and, in effect, give law firms the very flexibility that the CBI is asking for – the ability to test whether someone is worthy of a permanent role during the first two years of their service. But I decided to on the grounds that I doubt that many people have watched this interview, and I’m  sure there will be opinions around once people have seen it.

The government’s financial plans are taking a tremendous pounding in many quarters at the moment, and if you watch the Cridland interview you’ll see how careful he is not to say anything negative about his ally, the Conservative party. Socio-economic policy is probably the area over which the two ruling parties will have to compromise the most. I could not envisage a ruling party adopting this theory as a policy, even at the best of times; given that there’s a coalition in power, the CBI have two hopes of achieving their aim – and Bob Hope is no longer around.

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About Ashley Connick
Ashley Connick is a trainee solicitor at an international law firm. For a full profile, please visit the "About the Author" section of the blog.

4 Responses to ‘Extended trial periods for workers’ proposal: a call for opinions

  1. Lyn Patey says:

    If the proprietor of a small business is so removed from his employees that he is unable to judge whether or not a person is suitable after 6 months then he should find a good manager who can. Similarly a very large organisation should be able, via HR or line managers, to monitor a new recruit closely enough during their 6 month probation to make the same judgment. To expect people to accept jobs on the basis of a two year trial is sheer nonsense. We all need some security in our working life (unless we are numbered amongst the working royalty made up of top flight lawyers, bankers and CEOs who just seem to be able to jump on and off the job carousel). If those businesses who have so little faith in the judgement of their HR people want to go down this route maybe they should offer two year contracts instead.They may have to pay more to make up for the lack of job security and to counter the fact that those people who are fed up of being just another entry on the balance sheet will avoid their company like the plague, but, hey, at least they won’t have to invest in their people!

  2. Hi Ashley

    Good post.

    It just goes against the grain to give businesses the right to dismiss someone after two years but say this will help the economy. More dismissals will be made, fact, because it’s easier. That means more people without jobs. That means less spending in the economy. That means more businesses failing.

    The CBI guy just wanted to sound like the right guy to small businesses, but it’s very much a daily mail approach to things. Naive.

    Steven

  3. Anonymous says:

    I don’t want to comment on the specifics of this policy as it is not really one I am familiar with, but as an employee of the CBI, I would just say that the CBI reflects the thoughts of its members – 240,000 UK businesses. Our policy is not made without consulting members, so therefore John Cridland is reflecting what UK businesses are feeling, the reality on the ground.

  4. Lyn Patey says:

    To Anonymous – The CBI reflects the thoughts of 240,000 business BOSSES not the businesses as a whole. It would be prudent not to push the patience of the employees too far at a time when they are already bearing the brunt of the down turn and the very detrimental changes to pensions. The ‘reality’ you speak of actually has very little to do with the reality faced by us lowly workers. It’s much harder to get rid of highly paid executives without a big payoff than to shed the minions! This ludicrous suggestion of a 2 year probation just proves how out of touch with their most important business asset the top levels of management are!

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