Learning lessons

Hats off to the Scottish government for succeeding in developing and implementing a new act that intends to prevent the hiring of dangerous people to work with children – while the UK’s so-called ‘barring scheme’ is still two years away from implementation.

As Melanie Kerr outlines in her report on the Scottish Protection of Children Act (see page 16), Scotland has, as of early this year, put into effect a comprehensive approach to ensuring that employers must report an employee who harms a child in their care, and references must be checked to see if applicants for jobs that involve working with children are on a ‘disqualified from working with children’ list. The Scottish Act clarifies employers’ responsibilities in such matters, which is quite commendable.

The UK government would do well to put its foot to the pedal as Scotland has done, and clarify everyone’s responsibilities in this nightmarish limbo that currently exists.

Elsewhere: the Transport & General Workers Union reported the last week of March that it won more than 72m in accident and injury compensation for its members last year in 12,289 cases. The T&G’s record for supporting its members is admirable, but the implications for British business are staggering: this is just one union, and the amount of time and money invested in awards for accidents and injury is higher than business can tolerate.

The T&G has released the figures to show its members how well it fights on their behalf. But employers should take an altogether different lesson from this. On an individual, personal level, no injury or accident, of course, is acceptable. By putting pound signs and numerals next to injury and accident statistics, employers must see that following the letter of the law and regulations is crucial – to prevent unnecessary harm in the workplace but also as a strategic business practice, and to keep profits where they belong, in the successful operation of UK business.

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