We believe in a minimum civilised standard at work

first_img Previous Article Next Article Related posts:No related photos. Employment law has changed radically under Labour.  Industry minister Alan Johnson defends its performance onworkplace issues.  Ben Willmott reportsIndustry minister Alan Johnson is proud of the extensive employmentregulations the Government has introduced since 1997. Measures such as the National Minimum Wage, four weeks paid holiday and theWorking Time Directive were essential to ensure basic civilised standards inthe workplace, Johnson told Personnel Today. While he admits that regulatory compliance has created more work forbusiness, he does not believe it has adversely affected its competitiveness. He said, “It has been tough on business because we have introduced alot of things in a short time. This is because EU directives which were blockedby the previous government had to come in within a certain timescale. “We are adamant about what we believe is a need for minimum civilisedstandards in the workplace. I do not think good employers have anything toworry about at all. We will never go back to the time when there was an attemptto sell the UK as the sweatshop of Europe.” The Labour Party is sensitive to criticism that its red tape is stiflingbusiness. Johnson stresses it has taken a balanced approach in introducingemployment regulation. He said, “We have been criticised by the tradeunions that the Working Time Directive did not go far enough and by employersthat we have gone too far. “We will try to ensure employers get plenty of notice on forthcominglegislation and allow plenty of time for consultation. We recognise theproblems for business and we want to take them along with us – that is a veryimportant part of our approach. “We have introduced the Better Regulation Passport and the RegulatoryReform Act to make it quicker and easier to repeal out- of-date regulation.There is also the Better Regulation Task Force, which examines every piece oflegislation.” The minister believes one of Labour’s key achievements has been to createeconomic stability and tackle the productivity gap. He said, “There has been significant progress on the development ofeducation skills levels, getting the right framework for competition policy andregulation, providing good quality public infrastructure and the rightincentives for business to invest. “We reduced Capital Gains tax. Corporation tax is at the lowest levelever – the lowest of any industrialised nation. We have enhanced first-yearcapital allowances and made them permanent, and introduced new research anddevelopment tax credits for SMEs.” Johnson believes there is a cultural issue involved in the productivity gap.He said, “What I have found since being industry minister is that we arenot very good at spreading best practice and not very good at cooperating tocompete in an industry. “We took our shipbuilding and ship repair industry to see how thingsoperate in Holland. The {UK] industry realised they were competitors but thereare a whole string of things they need to cooperate on, such as skills andtraining, patents and investment in the infrastructure of the industry. “That type of approach can be replicated in other industries.” He points to the partnership between the CBI and TUC in helping to solve theproductivity gap as an example of the joint working needed to tackle the issue.Another key area of success for the Government has been the promotion ofwork-life balance practices, claimed Johnson. He is convinced that employers will benefit from adapting to the changingexpectations of the workforce. “There is a genuine feeling that the best companies have already beendoing this very successfully,” he said. “There is a tight labourmarket out there and women have skills they [employers] cannot afford to losefrom the workplace. “I think there is a huge problem with people being genuinely unhappyabout their working life and their ability to balance it with their domesticlife. The Government increased the length of statutory maternity leave to 26 weeksand the amount of unpaid maternity leave so women can have a year off in total.Maternity pay is also being increased from £60.32 to £100 a week and two weeks’paternity leave is being introduced. He said, “I think this is part of having a more civilised environment.A lot of companies do this already but many companies are stuck in the oldroutines. We have to spread best practice and I think there is a good businesscase for doing that. We have to invest in future generations, to invest inensuring children are raised properly and parents have time to spend with theirchildren.” Johnson is confident that government initiatives to tackle skills shortageswill also prove successful. He said the new Learning and Skills Councils willhelp educate and train adults who have fallen through the educational net Johnson added, “Whichever industry you look at, they are all concernedabout skills shortages and middle management. “Two new technology institutes will open in each region to meet therising demand for high-level technology skills. We aim to get 750,000 morepeople achieving basic skills levels by 2004. “The Learning and Skills Councils are just getting off the ground. Iwould not say we have done everything we could do because it is such a vastproblem. We are listening to industry as well to see how it thinks we canimprove.” www.labour.org.uk Comments are closed. We believe in a minimum civilised standard at workOn 5 Jun 2001 in Personnel Todaylast_img read more

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