You know how much I dislike employment legislation… I think most of it does more harm than good for both employees and employers.
My main reason for disliking the legislation too much is this: it generates problems, just by being there. There are now people who make their living by applying for jobs, going to recruitment interviews, waiting for the most minor of slip ups… and then taking the business to the cleaners, or, more accurately, a tribunal.
The reason this is even possible is that the law presumes the employer is guilty until they can prove themselves innocent. In turn this means anyone can raise any grievance and, unless the employer can prove that the grievance is baseless, they will win.
In turn this means that the burden of red tape on employers is ridiculous, even for us in EB.
And yet, I found myself defending the need for legislation just last week.
You see, when you get to the fundamentals the law is actually quite sensible, it’s just the way it is applied that causes a problem.
The idea that discrimination is bad is a good one, both from the point of view of fairness and good business – diversity is a good thing for releasing talent. My argument is that, all other things being equal, you shouldn’t have to legislate for it, it should happen because a business will be better and stronger…
Statistically, though, my ideal world is still a way away. We are still more likely to employ someone who looks like us, sounds like us and is about the same age as us.
And this was brought home to me on Friday when I was talking to a group of people about good practices in employment. The problems came when I explained that only questions to do with the job were permissible and asking someone about hobbies was dangerous ground.
‘The bottom line,’ I explained patiently, ‘Is this… if you ask a fifty year old bloke what he likes to do in his spare time and he replies: ‘cross dressing and going to the Pink Pussycat Transvestite Club’… what are you going to do with that information?’ If it’s nothing to do with the job, there’s no reason that information should be relevant…’
It took a bit of time, but I think I persuaded the delegates of the wisdom of this in the end.
But then someone piped up: ‘Can I ask candidates: if you were a breakfast cereal, what cereal would you be and why?’
Deep breath and a full explanation was followed by, ‘It’s my business: I’ll employ who I want!’
I still don’t think we need to legislate in the way we do, but have to say my confidence is shaken.