More Job-destroying Schemes

Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, has announced plans to give fathers an extra month’s paid leave after the birth of a child. They would also be given new rights to share a further seven months’ flexible time off with their partners, most of it paid. Cable believes that the changes are needed if bosses are to get the best out of their employees, on the grounds that “we need modern workplaces that reflect modern Britain. Otherwise we run the risk of people cracking up, dropping out of the labour force and losing essential skills from the economy.”

Such an extension to the rights of male employees would impose additional administrative and financial burden on business, to the detriment of efficiency.  It would bear particularly harshly on numerous small companies, many of which are only just surviving on the tightest of margins, whose workforce cannot be readily redeployed to cope with vacancies. Take, for example, a small bakery employing two male bakers, supplying a niche market with specialist breads, cakes and patisserie. If one of the two bakers were involved, the problem of finding a skilled patissier, for example, for several weeks or to cover separate chunks of leave (as seems to be envisaged) seem quite insuperable.  Such skilled employees are unlikely to be found on street corners waiting for casual work to drop from the sky. The likeliest outcome would be that the sole remaining baker would have to work longer night hours to make up the necessary production, neglecting his own family and running a much greater risk of ‘cracking up’ than a man not granted paternity leave. Alternatively, if the extra cost of Cable’s plans contributed to the bakery’s liquidation, they would have contributed also to many more people ‘dropping out of the labour force’ and their skills being ‘lost to the economy.’

The likely result of Cable’s vision of a ‘modern workplace’ is an impoverished ‘modern Britain’.  It seems quite incredible that the Government is contemplating new employment rights and costly burdens on business at a time when Britain’s deficit on a per capita basis is one of the highest in the developed world and the economic growth needed to rectify it (which only business can generate), is flagging.  Despite the fine words of politicians, it seems that the economy and our own prosperity is a lower Government priority than the ideology of ‘equality’ and ‘social justice’ which it inherited from its predecessor and which is still destructively present in other areas, such as education, as well.

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