Getting politicians to recognise recruitment’s contribution
Having spent a couple of days at the Conservative party conference earlier this month listening to the speeches and talking to the movers and shakers, it’s very clear that the rhetoric sounds good but the action on the ground is going in the wrong direction. As the recruitment industry’s professional body we don't favour any one political party and must work with whoever is elected. However, recently the Coalition seems to be displaying a worrying lack understanding of business and the world of work (as did, it has to be said, the last administration.) While the Conservative party talks about aspiration and the Labour party promotes ‘one nation’ in reality it seems neither can stop meddling and making matters harder for businesses to get on with creating wealth and jobs.
One of the little trumpeted facts that people are just waking up to is that the private sector has created over a million new jobs in the last year. Not all of these jobs are permanent or full time, it is true, but does that matter? We know that more and more people want to work in a family friendly manner, to freelance or to set their own hours. In fact, 45 percent of all those currently working are not in either permanent or full time job.
Businesses ‘get’ flexible working. Businesses want to keep their fixed costs as low as possible but recognise that at the same time they must attract and retain the talent they need to compete and win here and overseas. So when employers and workers are both keen to accommodate flexibility, new structures and innovative ways of working the question that keeps popping into my head is “why is the government intent on introducing more regulation?”
There are several big measures hoving into view; giving all employers the right to request flexible working, introducing shared parental leave and moving workers who are currently legitimately self-employed onto PAYE.
Sometimes it can feel as if most politicians have not worked in the real world; not enough recognise that wealth and job creation is going to be driven by small and medium sized businesses over the next few years. Such businesses often don’t have an HR function to help them comply with the increasing amount of legislation and regulation. Surely we want our entrepreneurial businesses to be focused on pleasing their customers and innovating, not struggling knee deep in the bureaucracy of compliance. This is exacerbated by their fear of getting something wrong and ending up at an employment tribunal – an irrational fear maybe, but one that can deter SMEs from hiring staff.
As for George Osborne’s latest idea that businesses can give shares to employees in exchange for them giving up their employment rights – it’s simply off the mark. It's clear that employee share ownership is a good thing - it makes people see themselves as owners with a stake in the business rather just an employed worker.
However this doesn't work in isolation but needs to be introduced in tandem with a culture of high trust and great leadership. While we might agree that the UK has enough employment protection (and certainly doesn’t need more) we really don't think getting individual employees to opt out of this protection is, frankly, either fair or right
The UK recruitment industry has survived the recession and continues to play a critical role in helping businesses find the talent, skills and resource they need to grow. We have contributed to making our labour market the envy of the rest of the world, creating jobs and keeping unemployment much lower than forecasted. This is in spite of the additional regulatory hurdles placed before us by government: last year alone recruiters had to deal with the introduction of AWR, pensions auto-enrolment and a tax regime that does not work, but still got on with making a positive difference every day.
What my experience at the political party conferences taught me was that there are still too many people making policy that affects business who don’t understand what it takes to run a business. Over the coming months the REC will continue to promote the work of recruiters to MPs of all colours as a significant contributor to economic growth and job creation, and in 2013 we will be inviting MPs and MEPs to take part in regional events with REC members. Stay up to speed on all our latest activities by reading the monthly Policy Update ecomms and following tweets from me @kevingreenrec and our Director of Policy Tom Hadley @HadleysComment