I’m not the sharpest tool in the box. I’m ok with that. The reality finally struck me that in a matter of weeks our world might be on the verge of substantial change. There is a very real chance that we could be collectively making the decision to leave the european union.
It doesn’t matter what I think, or what you think, the implications will be ours to deal with – both good and bad. In many ways, it is hard to think of a profession or an industry that will be more directly involved in unpicking the implications of that decision than the HR profession.
Nothing will happen too quickly, we won’t wake up and be faced with a series of challenges – other than uncertainty – but we would need to start thinking through the type of employment framework that we believe is right for the country and how we want our world of work to be designed.
Those for an exit will tell you that it will give unrivalled freedom to do what we want. Those against will tell you that nothing much will actually change. The reality is probably somewhere in the middle, away from the rhetoric and fear mongering.
But we do need to think through the type of economy we want and how we would go about building the arguments for creating it. The arguments of freedom come with the significant risks of exploitation and loose practice. Yet what is clear is that the “one size fits all” approach of central legislation does not fit the difference in the economic models of the UK and other countries.
What would you keep, what would you change? Have you thought it through?
Our entire landscape would be subject to debate and consideration. From immigration and skills, through discrimination, compensation and employment protection and litigation. We would be at the centre of some of the most contentious discussions and debates and we need to understand and find our voice.
Many think it will happen, I’m clear it could happen. In the event that it does, the HR profession will have a responsibility to lead business, to make its collective voice heard and to stand for something. We will have an opportunity to shape. And if we fail to take it, rest assured someone else sure as hell will.
Let me state something very clearly, HR people do not like new legislation. Why do I say this? Because of a wonderful statement issued by the Institute of Directors Director General, Miles Templeman,
“The HR lobby is the biggest vested interest of all when it comes to the subject of employment law. When governments create complex regulation, employers are forced to increase their HR budgets to ensure compliance”
Really? As someone who has worked through the introduction of the Disability Discrimination Act, the Data Protection Act, the National Minimum Wage, the Fixed term Workers Regulations (to name but a few) and is currently struggling with the Agency Workers Regulations am I really enthused and excited about new legislation?
And if I spoke to my peers and contacts they would probably say the same. So why would Templeman say that? Because the CIPD had the temerity to suggest that productivity shortfalls in the UK economy, might not be due to “red tape” but might actually be due to,
“relatively low rates of capital investment, long-standing deficiencies in the supply and quality of work-related skills, poor management of available skills in the workplace”
If the IoD calling anyone else a “vested interest” group in itself wasn’t ironic, the thing is that HR people are probably the LEAST likely to want new legislation. And the CIPD aren’t suggesting in any shape or form that there should be more. Instead they seem to be arguing that the problems might lie elsewhere – which sounds like a sensible conversation to have, whether you agree or not. And given that Templeman is a board member of Young Enterprise, you would have thought that he might have some sympathy.
Legislation isn’t introduced because people are already compliant. The Minimum Wage was introduced because people were being paid ridiculously low hourly rates, the Working Time Directive was introduced to give employees some protection against excessive working hours. I could go on. What we really need to do is have a sensible debate about how to improve the UK economic performance AND improve social justice, free from sound bite and dogma. And that is going to take a whole lot more than chucking out the rule book.
Funny thing is, the IoD know that………..they just have a vested interest.