As the recession bites, every day brings a list of job
losses that resembles the ghastly daily reading of the names of those condemned
by the French Revolutionaries...
...except that there is no sign of the Scarlet Pimpernel.
The self-employed read the lists with mixed feelings. Of
course, there is real sympathy – “There but for the Grace of God go we.”
Yet there is also a sense of relief that we are not the ones
in the tumbrils. We are not dependent for our entire livelihoods on the whims
of executives whom we have probably never met.
Or are we? The small print of announcements like the loss of
10,000 job losses at British
Telecom is that consultancy and contract workers are usually the first to
This means that small businesses – the consultancy firms and
sub-contractors – feel the pain of job cuts before big business.
There is no point complaining: it is the right decision.
Most employers feel the strongest moral obligation to their longest serving permanent
staff. Those of us who are also employers feel the same.
Moreover – although this is usually a secondary
consideration – it is legally simpler and less expensive to get rid of
consultants and sub-contractors.
That may in fact provide the silver lining – at least for
those small businesses who survive. The big boys will eventually be forced to
cut their permanent staff as well and a lot of those jobs will never come back.
This whole experience, if nothing else, proves the value of the flexibility of
relying on contractors and consultants: the best way to avoid the legal hassle
and expense of making permanent staff redundant is to have no permanent staff.
So, although we may be the first out, we may be the first
back in when things improve – as they will... one day.