Employment legislation

Hot on the heels of attending a depressing talk by John Dodds of BERR last week, I read the results of a survey of entrepreneurs by Tenon Recovery’s thinktank, The Tenon Forum.

This showed that 34% of SME’s are suffering from the UK’s unfavourable legislative environment and 24% feel alienated by increasing employee rights.

The following passage thus caught my eye in Stevens Drake newsletter:

The Government has recently overhauled the UK’s immigration laws and has created the UK Border Agency (UKBA), a new arm of the Home Office to deal with immigration based on a new Australian style points based system.

As from November 1st 2008, any employers wishing to employ non-EEA nationals will be required to register with the UKBA as sponsors. However, be aware that in doing so you will be effectively opening yourself and your business up to scrutiny, as the UKBA will have significant powers not only to look at those workers you are proposing to bring into the UK, but also to review the right of your existing workforce to live and work in the UK. If you do not have all the requisite paperwork in order and are found to be effectively employing staff illegally, you may be liable for a fine of up to £10,000 per illegal worker.

I have three questions:

Who pays for and trains the HR resource that has to check whether a candidate applying for a job falls into this category, the number of points that the candidate has and the authenticity of any passports and other paperwork presented?

What right does the company have to deselect candidates who are non-EEA nationals so as not to have to register with the UKBA?

What rights does the candidate have to challenge either the outcome of the points system or of being deselected and take the company to tribunal for discrimination?

With more than 4.4 million companies employing less than 5 people (presumably with no specific HR department) and another 100,000 or so with under 20 staff (according to the FSB Pressroom), my guess is that worrying about the answers to these questions and others very like them is hampering the kind of real productivity that UK PLC needs to get out of the current economic trouble.

It is worthy of consideration as SME’s account for more than 50% of UK turnover and 64% of its commercial innovation and each company owner is already an unpaid tax, NIC & VAT collector, pension arranger etc.

And note, whatever time & money the legislators feel a small business owner should spend understanding and complying with existing & new legislation, will be multiplied by 4.7 million times in terms of its real effect on UK productivity.

Simplicity really does count!

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