This week’s survey of 400 companies by the CBI shows that businesses are swamped by administration as a result of the raft of individual and collective rights introduced by the Government since 1997.
This will come as no surprise to HR professionals. Their shelves are creaking with guidebooks on everything from the working time regulations to the new laws on parental leave. The report’s authors calculate the cost to business of all this extra administration could be over £12bn, but the true cost is in the impact of UK companies’ competitiveness and this could be a lot higher in the long term.
However, the financial burden of implementing the new legislation, great though it is, is not the chief complaint of employers. Nor are they opposed in principle to every part of the regulations which have been so costly a distraction for business in recent years. The real issue is red tape.
Ministers, in their indecent haste to be seen to drive through their employment agenda, have too often rushed through regulations. They have failed to properly consult with employers, failed to consider the impact on companies of implementing the new rules, failed to allow firms sufficient time to prepare and failed to draft legislation in a way that can be understood without ambiguity or confusion.
Personnel Today’s campaign for better regulation, launched in February, is an attempt to force the Government to consult with and listen to employers before issuing yet more poorly drafted regulation.
The real casualty of this catalogue of failures has been the competitiveness of UK firms. Recent developments such as the launch of the Human Rights Act and a new anti-discrimination directive from Europe have not inspired much confidence that the programme of regulation is coming to an end, as promised.
If the Government wants the business vote in the coming election it needs to listen to the message coming from employers. Enough is enough. Business cannot carry the burden of yet more hasty, needless and sloppy legislation. Apart from anything else, an end to red tape is needed to protect employees themselves – after all, what use are employment rights if you don’t have a job to go to?