Why Beecroft is Wrong About Relaxing Employment Law.

by Hoinarylup

Mr Beecroft’s suggested policies may well produce jobs. This will look good in the figures. “So many hundred thousand jobs created”.  Even better, he and others can argue that his policies WOULD create so many jobs; pull a figure off the ceiling and say it’s all the fault of those wicked Lib Dems that this hypothetical number of jobs is not being created, without having to subject themselves to any sort of reality test.

But what kind of jobs will they be? What does not get mentioned is that if the last shreds of employment protection vanish, as Mr Beecroft and others seem to be suggesting, then any jobs created will be completely insecure, probably also low-paid, short-term and part-time. It is impossible for families to live on this kind of totally unreliable income.

It won’t affect me directly, because I happen to be self-employed. But while the freedom is lovely, in some ways it’s a very hard way to make a living. Not everyone is up to it.

There’s a family I know. They are good people. They are intelligent, hard-working and resourceful. The father and son both prefer to go out to work rather than sit on their bottoms on benefits saying they will have to be paid so much before they’ll even go out the door, because they are both people with a large measure of self-respect. They want to work.

Unfortunately, the best work they have been able to find is with a couple of national retail chains who offer the modern fashion for “zero hours” contracts. Under this system, you are employed, but the employer has no obligation to offer you any set number of hours a week. You are called in and paid as you are needed, from day to day.

It works very well from the company’s point of view, because they have a pool of well-trained casual labour who know the outlet, its stock and procedures, and can be called on, or not, just as needed. It works less well for the family, because they never know whether or not they are going to make enough to be able to pay their bills this week.

Where it gets completely crazy is from the point of view of the staff in the local benefits office, who have to calculate a different “top up” every week, according to how much the father and son have made. In effect, the State and its benefit system is being used to subsidise low and insecure pay policies by employers.

Now if employment protection is reduced even further, it will make things worse, not better. One possibility is that there will be a great deal more of this sort of thing. The other possibility is the “hard-line” option, that benefit support to top up situations of low, casual and unpredictable incomes is removed.

That last option will lead to real destitution. It will lead to more crime, probably more rioting, shopkeepers going bust as people no longer have any money at all to spend but the shopkeeper has to find the money to pay a security guard or two…… well they’ll close, I would in that situation……. landlords finding their tenants cannot pay the rent because they don’t have the money to, therefore an increase in squatting, and a good deal more besides.

None of this is likely to affect Mr Beecroft, who probably lives in a very nice gated estate with its own security, always assuming he lives in the UK at all and not in some overseas tax haven with a nice climate and a compliant government. But it is likely to affect the rest of us, quite radically. That is why, very much to my surprise,  I find myself more inclined to trust Cable and Clegg. As other posters have pointed out, they were elected and they therefore do have some kind of mandate; unlike Mr Beecroft, who speaks only for himself.


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2 responses to “Why Beecroft is Wrong About Relaxing Employment Law.

  1. ian

    As a counter point, there is already a huge and unfair disparity in the UK labour market between the lucky on permanent contracts and the legion of sub-contracted temp labour earning vastly less, but costing about the same to a company. This disparity is direct consequence of UK labour laws and everyone in one of these constructs will be a net beneficiary

  2. I totally agree with this viewpoint.

    I’d also say that from track record Vince Cable tends to choose very carefully who he is seen to be diametrically opposed to. (Think Murdoch)

    And he tends to be on the correct side of the argument.