The Labour Party’s leadership election race, culminating last month in the elevation to the top job of hitherto little-known left-winger, inevitably sparked much often-heated discussion surrounding employment “issues”.
While prime minister David Cameron has pressed ahead with his plans for a living wage – a phrase which sounds so much nicer than the old “minimum wage” – other politicians have been questioning the morality of so-called zero-hours contracts.
It seems unlikely that Jeremy Corbyn will allow the debates to die. He has already gone public with some interesting if controversial ideas about employment and, more importantly, unemployment.
The facts, at least according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), are that as of July this year, there were slightly more than 31 million people in work in the UK, and 1.82 million unemployed. As of June, here in the southwest the employment rate, at 77.3 per cent, was the highest of all UK regions.
Of those 31.09 million people in work – out of a UK population of 64.6 million – 22.74 were in full-time employment, while 8.36 million were working on a part-time basis.
So far, so very statistical. However, what the ONS figures do not reveal is how many of those part-time workers would actually prefer to be full-time workers. Nor do they tell us how many people actually prefer the flexibility that zero-hours contracts afford them.
On top of that, the numbers do not tell us how many people are grateful to be in work, even if they are paid below what used to be called the minimum wage.
The hospitality industry has a poor reputation when it comes to employment. Part of that reputation, at least in some cases, is undoubtedly justified. However, hospitality businesses are not only subject to the vagaries of the weather, they are also subject to the vagaries of their clients.
The breakfast chef is normally kicking his or her heels by 10am; only then, when the guests have gone out for the day, can the housekeeping team move in to “do” the rooms.
A veritable fleet of bartenders and waiters may be worked off their feet at lunchtime, but by four in the afternoon they are reduced to polishing glasses and wiping tables for the umpteenth time, bored beyond belief, and longing for the evening rush.
There is no universal, silver-bullet remedy for employment issues, not least because there is no universal problem. What works in the widget factory almost certainly won’t work in the hospitality industry, nor will it work in the fire service, at the filling station, or on the farm.
Blanket rules and regulations may improve the lot of some employees, but they are just as likely to throw many people out of work. Parliamentarians – of whatever political hue – need to wake up to the fact that there is no one-size-fits-all solution.
Editor’s note: For further information, please contact Simon Scarborough on 07801 571357 or at email@example.com