‘Extended trial periods for workers’ proposal: a call for opinions
Monday, 7th February 2011 4 Comments
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.