A turning point for fair employment?
Recent events have spelt out the important role that regulation should play in ensuring fairness and stability in our economy – and suggest significant Government policy shifts. Could this conversion also provide the opportunity for Government to accept the case for sensible regulation at the bottom of the labour market? Will the argument that labour market regulation prevents exploitative treatment and enables good businesses to treat their workers fairly finally be accepted? Are Government now going to recognise that fair employment protection can increase rather than reduce business competitiveness? When better to ensure that those who will be ‘hit the hardest’ have fair protection at work? An economic downturn is not an excuse for disregarding agreed labour standards – but it does mean that more than ever effective regulation is needed to prevent the worst employers from using the threat of redundancy to justify exploitative treatment. Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but as the credit crunch continues to bite increased enforcement of employment rights, an extension of the Gangmaster’s Licensing Authority to other low-paid sectors and a commitment to closing the legal loopholes that deny many workers fair rights at work could be an important part of the Government’s attempt to demonstrate that it’s on the side of hard-working people.