Employment Rights and the Abuse of Small Employers

Posted on February 5, 2015

Being someone with self-confessed socialist values, I have always supported employment rights of the worker against overzealous paymasters and there was without doubt, a time in the days of heavy industrial output, when workers required protection with regards to working conditions, pay and sickness in particular.

However, times have changed and a good 50 per cent (perhaps more than that) of my peers have, because of major changes in the economy, gone down the route of creating their own limited companies, either by choice or the loss of employment in times of recession.

The cradle to grave existence of working in shipyards, coal mines, car factories or the steel industry has largely gone and even the nuclear bomb factory that provided full employment in my childhood neighbourhood is largely privatised, which is a chilling thought when you consider the measures ‘Fat Cat’ directors take to inflate share prices and in turn, their extraordinary bonuses.


Employment Rights Were Vital For Factory Workers

However, fat cat directors are a story for another day as what this post is about, is the day to day survival of those thousands of people who have gone through the process and cost of becoming a private limited company and all the red tape and legislation that goes with it.

This is not about my own company, as it is about as simple as it gets really. I supply electrical contract staff to companies who are big enough to present me with work but not so big that I am cut aside to and replaced by a high street company who may have less knowledge than me but do have a handy little apartment in the Seychelles or other incentives/bribes.

The companies I deal with are generally similar in stature and turnover and whilst some are more progressive than others, they all operate, essentially anyway, with the moral obligations of people who know what it is like to be the worker because of course, they were there once themselves.

Because of these common attributes, they all tend to lean towards being companies that are in effect, co-operatives, trying to do well for themselves but providing a good working environment for their staff and offering a share out of profits in years of good financial health.

This should really be a good news story and in many ways it is, because I know engineers from many of these companies who enjoy good salaries, flexible working hours to suit both parties and the ability to run projects with a certain amount of autonomy, providing of course, the effect on the business is positive.

I have worked on my own now for 17 years so my memories of being an employee are pretty vague but from what I can recall as an worker in my younger years, is that the thought of then being able to use my own nous, gut feeling and individualism in a quest for positive results would have been a revelation.

Instead, I worked in an environment where individuality and the questioning of process and red tape was crushed under the weight of bitter institutionalised individuals whose daily diary was filled by back stabbing and a quest for promotion and job protection. It was that kind of individualism that drove me to go it alone.

What is sad, I think, is that it is no coincidence that I have met three separate employers in recent months that have had their co-operative spirit crushed by individuals who can spot good nature, dismantle and abuse it, and look to get compensated for their behaviour.

The problem as I see it, is that dead wood, often from the public sector or large organisations, come in to small private companies and expect to be allowed write their own rule book and undertake wholesale abuse of statutory rights such as sick pay, acting as if though it is some sort of unofficial holiday.

Sick pay is there to protect a worker who has, through no fault of their own, become too ill to work, not to be used as a way of getting paid for hangovers, extended weekend breaks or even holidays. I would imagine the unlicensed sector/private sector sickness leave comparison is quite startling. These people are such a drain on the economy it is barely worth trying to calculate it all without going for a drive in the woods with a length of hose pipe.

The socialist in me wants to believe that if the employer treats its staff in the right manner, these situations would not occur but I have seen first-hand, the chaos it can cause. The truth is that in the case of these selfish individuals, that is nonsense and the damage they can cause runs deeper than what will first come into your mind’s eye.

The cost of employing and then dismissing a parasite employee is not just financial, it also affects staff morale. I know a company in North London who attempted to dismiss a lady because of a host of contractual and financial irregularities.

To get to a point where they were absolved of any mismanagement, cost the company thousands in legal bills and lost man hours as well as the inability to employ a replacement during the legal battle. This in turn affected the bonuses of staff and all in all it became a year to forget in what was already a struggle as they emerged from recession.

That’s dreadful isn’t it?

I wish I could say it was a one off but I have witnessed it too many times for it to be a coincidence and I find it desperately sad for those small companies trying to offer flexibility and something a little bit different to create a happy and prosperous work force.

I believe strongly in employment rights and the social changes that have brought them about, as there are employers need to be taken to task with regards to how they treat their staff but I can’t stand opportunists.

Of course you can’t have company bosses that rule by fear or harassment but at the same time, a small business, or a large one come to that, needs to be protected from a dramatic increase in self-serving narcissists who are never wrong and always look to blame others for their inadequacies.

It was difficult writing that as an alleged socialist and I do believe protection for the employee is as valid as it has ever been and so it should be, but organisations also need to be protected from an increasing number of individuals who treat a decent employer with undeserved contempt.

Otherwise they will just give up employing people.

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