The top priority of Britain's incoming Coalition Government should have been to restore economic stability and create the conditions for a meaningful return to growth.
And, as everyone keeps telling us, the power horse of that economic growth will be small businesses.
Or will it?
Today sees the enforcement of the euphemistically named Equality Act, one of the greatest works of stupidity from the current government's economically illiterate predecessor.
Lady GaGa at a US equalities rally
Here are some of its implications:
- Employers can no longer ask prospective employees about their health. Being sufficiently well enough to work is a pre-condition of doing any job but we are no longer allowed to ask!
- You can bring a discrimination case against your employer just because you assess yourself as having been offended by a conversation others are having. Not just a conversation – any conduct you deem is unwanted to you. Your employer has no control over this but remains liable nevertheless.
- Employers must positively discriminate in favour of ‘minority groups’. Does being an employer count as a minority group? How far away are we from having lawyers assess every employment application, sit in on every employment interview and promotional panel?
So obviously economically self-defeating is this piece of legislation we do not need to spell out why. Whereas there is a case to argue that it is wrong to discriminate on matters which have no impact on someone’s ability to do their job, this legislation manifestly undermines British business’s ability to be competitive, forcing it to recruit people incapable of doing their job.
Now, in case we ourselves are discriminated against by being called heartless bastards, we do agree that this daft legislation has noble intentions. But the problems it seeks to address – where they are genuine rather than imagined – are society's problems.
It should be for society to bear the burden of all this fairness. Indeed it will, but not as intended. The cost of all this regulation, while providing a ginormous trough for lawyers, consultants and regulators to stick their parasitic snouts into, will be borne by business, not society as a whole. In effect, another huge tax on business and a tax that will fall disproportionately on small and entrepreneurial ventures.
The government is looking to small business to create the millions of jobs needed for economic recovery. Way before this ridiculous move we were predicting the Jobs Crunch. This particular contributor long ago decided never to take on an employee in present day Britain, not because of the cost but because he has an enterprising nature and doesn’t want to spend his time at work acting as an über-administrator.
Many will now follow suit. Others less savvy will see their businesses go under with the sheer weight not just of the regulatory cost but the time costs too. Time that should be spent generating wealth.
It is this impediment to economic growth which will be the burden society as a whole ends up paying.
Our previous blog post lamented the lack of a representative voice for small business. Not even we could have imagined their impotency in fighting this move – a job left to a columnist from the left-of-centre, generally anti business, Guardian newspaper.