Sack the Lazy

This week we hear of a leaked report, commissioned by Downing Street, recommending the laws on unfair dismissal being reformed in order that lazy or unproductive employees can be dismissed by their employers easier, freeing up space in the jobs market for more productive workers.

The usual suspects are out, showing off their dyed-in-the wool tribal loyalties, the unions have described the report as“profoundly unjust” and attacked the report as showing the true face of the “Nasty” Tories.

Despite being self-employed now, I have previously worked in several workplaces and job roles, from stacking shelves in supermarkets to scanning documents in offices to installing telephone points in customer’s homes. In each of these jobs, we all knew who the good workers were and who were the slackers. They also knew that we knew, the bosses knew, even the customer’s could tell when they were dealing with an employee who couldn’t be bothered. This is where we get to the heart of the matter. People won’t be bothered to work hard and be productive if they don’t have to. They won’t be sacked if they spend half the day on Facebook and if the work they do complete is sub-standard due to their being more interested in looking through the  endless email photos of cats dressed as ballerinas with mildly amusing captions rather than concentrating on the fine details of the report they’ve just typed to be sent out to a client, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter because they have no fear of being sacked, everyone’s on Facebook all day, sacking someone because of this is victimisation. Singling them out because they aren’t able to cope with their normal workload and tag photos of themselves being sick on Dave’s birthday within the 8 office hours available is just unfair. Work will always miss out, workers will always prefer not to work. It’s good to have a large pile on your desk, it makes you look busy and makes your co-workers less likely to give you more, freeing up still more time for looking at pointless novelty items on Amazon.

What other reason is there for an employer to hire you, than to be productive? Without productivity there can be no job for the employee, no company for the employer and no product or service for the customer or client. Following this logic, surely the most important reason for dismissal should be productivity, or rather lack of it, be it directly (that of the employee concerned) or indirectly (the effect the employee concerned has on their fellow employees). Workers in any industry slacking off or coasting at a time when 2.75 million people are registered unemployed seems to me a perfectly valid reason for their dismissal. If there are job seekers who can do a job better than the employees currently at your company, why should you not be able to employ them? Why should you be forced to continue employing staff who are slack and unproductive? Why should a person who has just started a new job (and is therefore likely to be more financially insecure) have less rights in law than a person who has been working at the company for several years (and is therefore more likely to be financially secure)? I am unsure (unless it is to promote borrowing by the longer term employee on the basis that they are more likely to still have their job in the forseeable future).

I am of course not advocating a kind of revolving door policy in any workplace. This will almost always be counter productive, by removing any sort of loyalty an employee may feel towards their employer, one will always promote a kind of ‘may as well be slack for as long as I can as I’ll be sacked soon anyway’ mentality among staff. Treating employees badly will result in the best ones (the ones in demand from other, rival companies) leaving to find work elsewhere, a company with these policies will be left with a workforce consisting of people who cannot get work elsewhere, this is clearly not the way to go about running a business. The other side of this argument is that if an employee is free to move jobs (after a set notice period) in order to improve their pay and/or conditions, why should an employer not be free to change the members of their workforce when it becomes clear that some of their current employees are not working as hard or as well as they should and better or more productive ones have become available?

Of course, there are ways to dismiss staff from your employ if they break certain rules or laws but generally, if an employee does not want to leave, turns up on time, is generally pleasant but continues to do very little work, it is very difficult to find sufficient grounds (using current legislation) for their dismissal, even if there is a queue of qualified applicants from the job centre begging to be given a chance to prove their work ethic. The free movement of labour is one of the fundamental necessities for Adam Smith’s ‘invisible hand’ to fully work, ensuring a balance between consumers and producers and, I believe, should not be prevented in its endeavours.

In these times of high inflation, across the board pay-cuts and increasing competition from overseas, as a consumer I want my products and services to be cheap, this means efficient working practices by the companies concerned. One way to improve a companies competitiveness is to ensure productive working practise by its staff, if this means keeping them on their toes with the threat of dismissal for repeatedly wasting company time and resources, I fail to see how this can ever be a bad thing.

Thanks for reading


All comments are welcome, I’ll answer as many as I can.


2 Responses to Sack the Lazy

  1. jasondegray says:

    A false sense of entitlement really seems to be plaguing the First World. I see us right now where Rome was right before Nero set it on fire.

    • Less than a thousand years ago Europe was an uncivilised place, less developed than the middle and far east. We could be witnessing a return of power to Asia if people don’t start taking responsibility for their own misfortunes.

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