If Liz Truss wants to be more like Germany, she should boost workers’ rights

Alex Hern shows Liz Truss the piece of data she seems to be ignoring in her attempts to become more like Germany.


Liz Truss has become the latest Conservative MP to argue that the best way to deal with the unemployment crisis is to make it easier to sack people.

Writing in the Times today, Truss argues (£) that:

The Government should learn from Germany’s relentless efforts to enable companies to take on new workers.

First on the list, and simplest to achieve, is matching Germany in exempting companies with fewer than ten employees from dismissal regulation. Also in the short term, shared parental leave should be implemented with direct flat payment to parents and maximum working flexibility.

Work should begin on the creation of a new flexi-job contract, tax-exempt and regulation free, to enable younger, older and returning employees to get work.

If Truss does want to copy Germany, she should probably bear in mind that they have far, far more employment protections than the UK:

Ian Murray MP, Labour’s shadow minister for employment relations, told Left Foot Forward:

“The Tory-led government is completely out of touch if it thinks the best way to get growth is to make it easier to sack people.

“Even the Business Secretary has himself admitted that the UK has a ‘reasonably good balance’ between employer and employee rights.

We should be making it easier to hire, not fire, people.

As Richard Exell wrote when the chancellor suggested the same thing:

At a time when people are more depressed about the economic future than for a long time it is unlikely taking away their rights at work is going to make them happier. Young people, in particular, will be hardest hit – they are, after all, much more likely to have been employed for less than two years.

Vulnerable workers, especially those without a union to support them, will be most likely to be intimidated into not taking a case to tribunal, even when it’s a good one.

And all this for really dubious economic benefits. When the Labour government brought that threshold down to one year there was no noticeable impact on employment, and there’s precious little sign of employers demanding this.

See also:

Raab’s attacks on workers’ rights are – surprise – based on no evidenceSarah Veale, November 16th 2011

Gideon’s grotesque attempt to blame workers’ rights for unemploymentRichard Exell, October 3rd 2011

Government and CBI speak out against domestic workers’ rightsSam Gurney, June 16th 2011

Cable should work with unions, not bully them, for the good of the economyMik Sabiers, June 8th 2011

Employment tribunal reforms will further erode workers’ rightsRuwan Subasinghe, February 7th 2011

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