One of my New Year’s resolutions is to make a deliberate effort to learn more about being a good employer. Like a few other entrepreneurs I know, I have never actually worked for anyone else, so I haven’t had the chance to learn by example.
Interviewing people is where the challenge starts. I just want to know a little bit about the person – what makes them tick, what they do that is individual to them, and so on. Right around this point, the ludicrous legislation steps in to make what seems an easy job quite a minefield.
Laws that are supposedly there to protect against discrimination mean that you can’t ask someone if they are married, how old they are or anything of any consequence. To me, this just turns an interview into a cagey event, with a steely atmosphere more suited to the Cold War.
As is becoming clear from the various stories in the media, so many employers are finding themselves in hot water due to what often seem to be good-natured jokes and office banter. One example I noticed in the news was that of a policeman in Luton who had been involved in a Secret Santa draw and had been given a Muslim colleague to buy for.
A lot of the people apparently gave quirky or light-hearted gifts, and this guy bought some bacon and a bottle of wine for the Muslim PC. Despite the Muslim PC not wanting to make a complaint, such a fuss has been made by the police force that the man making the joke has had to resign.
Okay, so the joke is close to the bone, but it’s no different to giving a Catholic condoms – and I would find any of the above pretty funny. It comes down to the fact that the police are so scared of being held accountable for employment issues that they overreact to anything that gets near discrimination. It’s these same laws that are causing businesses across the UK to become uptight and humourless.
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