Thursday, 27 January 2011

Thoughts on legislated job security

So, there is apparently a two-year "sackers' charter" coming, whereby job security is not guaranteed before two years of employment. "The left" are up in arms about this, but as someone who has been an employer as well as an employee, I'd like to try to offer some perspectives on this.

Firstly, I feel much more at risk of being sacked in the UK than I've ever felt working in countries where there are absolutely no "protections" for employees, including a brief stint in a country where even unionisation is banned!

I'm not sure if this is an unintended consequence of employment legislation, whereby the additional cost of catering for employment law fucks up the cost/benefit relation of employing someone and actually, perversely, increases the risk of getting the sack in marginal situations, like in a recession when things are tough. Or it might be something else, or a combination.

Secondly, as has been pointed out: protecting jobs just because someone's been in them for a while, even if they're useless or become useless due to factors outside the employer's control, means that the useless person can't be shed and replaced by a more useful person. It also makes it harder for people who have no experience or skill to get a job, and forces people who have skills and experience "down the value chain" into more menial jobs than they actually deserve.

But then there's the other side of the equation: having been an employer as well, recruiting people is a) a fucking ballache, b) expensive and c) risky.

There are really very few jobs indeed where labour is a commodity. Every job, even picking fruit, requires a level of training and expertise. The degree varies from job to job, but there is always a component of it. And if you've got the knowledge and the expertise and you're good in your job and you integrate with the workplace, then I can assure you that it is very nearly as unpleasant for the employer to give you the sack as it is to be sacked.

And people are very, very unlikely to sack you just because they can replace you with someone cheaper, because it's a fucking ballache, and even if it's not expensive or saves money, the new person is a risk. And furthermore, someone who is settled in his job and is reasonably happy is not a flight risk. Someone who has just arrived is more likely to piss off because the job isn't what they expected and then you're left swinging in the breeze.

So I don't think employment "protection" is really of any use to employees. If you want job security, do your job well, make yourself valuable and you'll be the last one standing. But don't expect an employer to look after you just because you've occupied that desk for the last 10 years.


Mark Wadsworth said...

I'm a great believer in workers' rights, the most important of which is e.g. job security (or the knowledge that you'll find a new job should you lose your current one).

And as I've always said, the best guarantee of workers' rights is FULL EMPLOYMENT, and the best way of achieving that is cutting taxes on output, profits and wages*; reducing means testing of benefits and more or less complete deregulation of everything.

* Or ideally, scrap all these and only have Land Value Tax, separate topic.

Mitch said...

Think about the idiotic paternity/maternity leave and how many people of child bearing age wont get jobs cos it would cost too much.

fukin politicians aint got a clue about the real world.

Joe Public said...

"So, there is apparently a two-year "sackers' charter" coming, whereby job security is not guaranteed before two years of employment."

Unless it's for an MP, in which case job security could be for 4 years.

Michael Fowke said...

I agree with Mark Wadsworth. Job insecurity makes the whole of society insecure.

sixtypoundsaweekcleaner said...

The Nazis knew a thing or two, then.

FreeTrader said...

Michael Fowke:

The only way to have a secure society is to live in a centrally-planned communist or fascist dictatorship. The state planning authority will assign you a job for life and forbid companies or state enterprises from firing employees.

Do you really want to live under those conditions?

As for me, I will happily take my chances in the semi-capitalist economy we have at the moment. If a company offers me 'secure employment', I will run the other way. I know that such a company will be full of complacent time-servers and arse-lickers playing office politics. Since nothing in this world is entirely certain, security comes at a price.

Michael Fowke said...

I agree with FreeTrader. Mark Wadsworth doesn't know what he's talking about.

Avant-Garde Plebian said...

Spot on the money, these schemes do little to actually protect the employees who are the most vunerable (new workers/graduates, low skilled, etc).

P.S. Mark Wadsworth sounds like a commie in disguise to me.

Timac said...

Hear, hear, Obnoxio

You should see the employment laws in Spain especially with what they call fijo contracts and finijito payments. Many a good company has gone down this recession because of them. They were put in place to satisfy Mark Wadsworth's "workers rights" but have in practice lead to less, because no company wants to put people on fijo contracts because of the risk and cost. Just because a government can legislate does not mean it is the best thing to do.

I look at the way the system is in Spain and shudder. They meant well, those socialists, they always do. The consequences of their meddling have been disasterous, though

Spanner Monkey said...

Unfortunately these simple aspects are not understood by the plonkers making the rules, but are all too apparent to those who have taken the personal risk to create jobs and opportunity.

For example here in Belgium, the laws are SO protective that the government decides the minimum annual pay rise an employer must give. This of course has the consequence that companies are reluctant to hire staff and instead use freelancers, but your average employee is used to having 14 monthly pay packets guaranteed for 10 months of work, all whilst being prohibitively expensive to dismiss regardless of performance, so unemployment rather than self-employment is on the rise.

I did hope that Camroon & Co. understood this but the Employer's Charter has turned out to be a obfuscation that the last lot would have been proud of.

Weekend Yachtsman said...

Everybody seems to be missing the fact that the cutoff for unfair dismissal was two years until fairly recently.

The change to one year was part of Blair/Brown's ruination of the economy, all we're doing is putting things back as they were.

So why the big outrage?