Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Baroness Scotland and employment law a different take.

I try not to get involved in national news stories on this blog, mainly as there is enough coverage anyway elsewhere on the web, however in this case it seems to me that the main point has been missed by other commentators.

Now the fuss here is about the fact that Baroness Scotland failed to make photocopies of documents that she didn’t know she should have photocopied and was fined £5,000 for this.

We had a similar situation occur in my family back in the days of the Thatcher government, so no knocking either party in this one. Before going any further I should point out the seriousness of this for the small employer in as much as a £5,000 fine could bankrupt many small employers, particularly in the current economic climate.

What happened to my father related to the employment of school Saturday people in his bookshop in Stevenage. As a family of booksellers we have always considered the employment of A level students on Saturday an important contribution to society, many of the people I have employed in this way over the years have commented on how useful the experience had been to them.

Now a 16 or 17 year old in full time education doesn’t earn enough working one day a week in a bookshop to go over the threshold for income tax or national insurance so apart from ensuring that they have no other income, that would push them over either threshold, the employer doesn’t have to fill out paye returns and so on.

Obviously my father kept detailed records of all of this, however what he didn’t know was that at some time between when he started in bookselling when he left the army after WW1 and 1989 the government had produced a form to record this information.

No one contacted him to tell him of the existence of this form and as all one had to do was fill it out keep it for 7 years and then throw it away no one at the tax office had anything to notice missing from his submissions.

As far as I know all of the paperwork relating to tax and employment has to be kept for 7 years apart from the certificate of employer liability that you have to keep for 40 years.

Anyway eventually the inevitable government inspector, the forms were found lacking and my father duly fined.

The point I am making here is that employing people should be a much more straightforward business, without these sort of risks, the government should supply simple documentation to every employer making it clear what paperwork they need to have to employ someone.

I believe that the fact that one of the people involved in creating a piece of employment legislation should fail to understand it properly only adds to the argument here.

I should add that as an employer this case is the first I have heard of the need to keep photocopies of documents that prove a persons legitimate right to work in this country.

Certainly with the unemployment figures rising as they are, employing people shouldn’t be a vague and risky gamble with a multitude of government departments with different powers to punish one for non-compliance with unknown regulations.

1 comment:

  1. Not an analogous situation Michael.

    If she failed to keep copies she gets a fine for failing to keep copies.

    If she did have copies what would the situation have been ?


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