Legislation ensures we get what we deserve – or does it?

In a recent blog Ian commented on the impact of legislation which when thought through actually encourages parents to cheat the system. If they don’t then it costs them dear.

The behaviour of a small minority of errant parents who were keeping their children off school for lengthy periods with no consideration for their schooling has resulted in the system being adjusted for everyone.  Why do we allow this to happen?

It isn’t the only example of changing the rules to accommodate the few with a resulting inconvenience for the many.  Yes some parents do take their children out of school in term time but in the past that has been with the full agreement and support of the head teacher.  That others don’t seek such support and take their children out at inappropriate times should not impact on those that take the proper path to approval. The impact on the price of holidays, at what is now the only limited time you can take your children away, is already palpable. As is the impact on small employers who are having to work the summer with a skeleton staff.

Where else has this happened?  A lot perhaps in the world of employment.

We might ask, for example, whether the legislation on minimum pay has helped or hindered the jobless. Has it has boosted or limited employment opportunities?  What would happen to UK plc if the Green Party proposals were adopted?

One possibility is that would create an even bigger black market in cheap labour. That’s when things like Health and Safety go out of the window as workers operate outside the law. You only have to think back to the Morecombe Bay disaster to see how dangerous that can be…

We might ask whether equal rights for temporary agency staff are helpful… or instead has it damaged the temporary recruitment market and restricted longer term temporary contracts?

We might also ask whether constantly extended maternity and paternity rights for employees have achieved the right balance.  Many SMEs would say it is crippling them – which impacts, whether it is legal or not, on whom they consider when making new appointments. Taking that one step further, can “one size fits all” employment law ever be right when the resources, issues and challenges of multi-nationals and big public sector employers are so very different to those of SMEs? How many law makers in Whitehall ever worked in a business with less than 20 employees?

Bad – or poorly thought through legislation – doesn’t help anyone. Even what was once good law can also get overtaken by events, or technology.

The growing legal threat of being sued over references (or anything that could be considered to be a reference) means that they are steadily becoming increasingly bland and meaningless. So will employers increasingly resort to less legitimate ways of checking up on prospective employees like trawling their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts?

You might notice a key feature of many of the referenced articles is the cost to firms of implementing these different requirements – they are high and the impact on the economy cannot be ignored.  There is no doubt that legislation changes behaviour, and it is important to consider what might be the consequences – as my dad used to say to me:  you only get what you deserve – and that includes the rule makers who, in seeking fairness, may deliver the opposite and turn us all into non-conformists!

Sarah Chiumento

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