Here’s where Leadsom is actually right

Saturday’s Guardian says, “Andrea Leadsom outbid them all when she dreamed of a future when there was “absolutely no regulation whatsoever – no minimum wage, no maternity or paternity rights, no unfair dismissal rights, no pension rights – for the smallest companies that are trying to get off the ground”.

This was what Molly Scott Cato – my local Green MEP – suggested was indicative that ‘Brexit fanatics go for broke‘.

Now remarkably, I find myself in disagreement with one of my favourite MEP’s and in broad agreement with one of my least favourite Conservative MP’s.

For me, although the Guardian suggested it was, this is nothing to do with Brexit or its future but more probably to the historical, enhanced UK enforcement of EU protections. I doubt that these regulations are to the fore in Italy or Luxembourg, even though they were EU founding members, and I certainly would be surprised that that there is similar legislation to the UK’s in Poland or Bulgaria. Yet this strict legislation is laid at the EU’s door, when I very much doubt it is the case.

It is remarkable that, whilst in the EU, the UK managed to reduce the minimum time required in unfair dismissal cases from one year to two. Now I have to point out that it is unfair dismissal, so I’d rather have a shorter time but a tighter concept  – as I’ve been taken to court by someone who just after a year inexplicably disappeared from employment for weeks and whom, although I was legally advised I shouldn’t, I was actually encouraged by my other employees to dismiss. I did, and the court result was actually eventually in my favour, but the consequence was a long saga of concentrating on that employee’s court case and not the business.

So my ‘Leadsom agreement’ is because I agree that, if you are starting up a business, that is difficult enough, without presuming that you emerged from the womb with the full knowledge of all employment legislation.

I accept, in fact, that the minimum wage should be, as a basic, ascertained by all employers, before employing, but I think it is too early to expect pension rights, maternity or paternity rights or even unfair dismissal rights to be granted for a small employer in the first year and perhaps two years of employment.

Instead it seems to me that that both employer and employee should, in these early stages, be sizing each other up.

My experience as a former small employer is that if you like each other you’ll get on. If you don’t you won’t. It is not as if, as small business, you’ll be employing all of a sudden 25 people – much more likely is one or two. The lack of initial rights would in fact encourage those that were uncertain of the insecurity of a small company, to present themselves to Tesco, say.

Though funnily enough, from day one, although I have employed part-time staff, I have never, ever, employed anyone on less than minimum hours –  they may have been changed (by agreement) but were never reduced. I considered only a guaranteed minimum to be fair to the employee. I think zero hours transfer the risk of my small business (or even – indeed, especially, Tesco’s large business) onto the employee, and that is not what zero hours should be about. Perhaps they should possibly be permitted for a business in its infancy, but only then. The real problem would be, as ever, enforcement.

So Andrea Leadsom is largely right, I’m surprised to say.

Mind you, it is this far and really no further….

Will anyone on Progressive Pulse ever speak to me again?


  1. Geoff -

    Would it not be better to have specific contract agreements for employers/employee’s of small or start up businesses to cover this obviously problematic area of employment law?

    My difficulty with these pronouncements from Tories, especially one’s of her persuasion, is that it’s always the thin edge of the wedge. If this came to being they will without any doubt use it to prove the need to give the same legal rights to medium then large employers. Where does this ever stop, we have corporate welfare, loss of employment rights across the board for all employees many of whom are made redundant as their right to employment rights is reached. I sympathies Peter but I’d hope a better way than this could be found.

  2. Peter May -

    I think that would be a fair idea, yes.But it would need to be enforced – something the small state finds very difficult!
    Absolutely agree that any changes must not become the thin end of the wedge…

  3. Steve -

    While I understand your sentiment, it strikes me that these vital, security-fostering benefits can work for both the employer and employee – and that restructuring taxes, and crucially enforcement, could make life a bit easier at the bottom of the pile.

    Levies and reliefs could easily be applied to legitimate small businesses for this provision.

    All it would take is HMRC and Companies House to get serious with the big boys.

    There is no such thing as a fair, free market. You can pick one or the other.

    If you want the free one, the bullies pile up on top of you and the genuine entrepreneurs and the desperate workforce get f**ked over.

    If you want the fair one, you incentivise people to go into business, allow them to treat staff with dignity, and the mono/oligopolies are tamed – but still able to make a lot of money.

    I sympathise with your stance. But placing the burden on an already stressed, underpaid, indebted, underutilized workforce is a ridiculous notion.

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