Sunday, 11 May 2008

What A Surprise

On the front page of the Observer today, half-way through an article about the 'collapse' in Gordon Brown's public standing, comes the truly shocking revelation that Imelda Walsh, human resources director of our second biggest supermarket chain, has recommended to the Government that around 2.6 million mothers should "gain the right to demand flexible working hours".

Well, knock me down with a feather. If it isn't the directives issued from on high, it's our own Sainsbury's Government coming up with ever more innovative ways to shaft small businesses.

The flexible working plans were originally mooted in the Queen's Speech in November last year, and Walsh was selected to undertake the review by cabinet minister John Hutton shortly afterwards. The plans were criticised at that time by the Federation of Small Businesses

"The government needs to recognise that the reality in a business is that the employees need to be at work to enable the firm to make money, pay their wages and grow to employ others. The employer must continue to have the final say in granting flexible working to ensure that the business does not suffer." - John Wright, FSB Chairman
Small businesses suffer disproportionately from such legislation, of course, because due to their small size it is so much more difficult for them to cover for employees taking advantage of 'flexible working'. It has nothing to do with exploitation, and everything to do with sheer practicality.

It is surely common sense that a business - particularly one with constrained 'trading hours' such as a retailer or an entertainment venue - with few employees and narrow profit margins will find coping with demands for flexibility far more difficult than will a large corporate competitor.

By constantly pushing for changes to labour laws that will inevitably harm small businesses to a much greater degree than large-scale employers, both the European Union and New Labour are contributing to the corporate domination of our society.

Whether that be deliberate, or a consequence of putting ideology ahead of critical thinking about the real-world consequences of legislation, one can't be sure.

Either way, though, the effect will be the same - More hardship for small-scale employers, and more 'Closing Down' signs outside Britain's small shops and venues.


Mark Wadsworth said...

Strike one for the large-state corporatists! Well spotted.

Jemima Tolpuddle-Duck said...

Are there any other workers rights which one might construe as giving an unfair advantage to big business over small and should they be rolled back. The minimum wage? The eight-hour day? :-)

QT said...

@jemima: It is true that in many (most?) cases, including both of the examples you give, labour legislation affects small enterprises to a greater degree than large corporations.

Overly enthusiastic lobbies for more and more such legislation year-on-year are playing directly into the hands of the 'large-state corporatists' as MW puts it.