If you’re still wondering what the Fire at Will Bill (about to become law just over a day after it was first made pubic) is all about take a look at No Right Turn’s analysis. It is a poorly-written and poorly thought-out law. It takes away your right, if you are fired when the first 90 days of working at a small or medium-sized business, to challenge the fairness and legality of that dismissal. And National/ACT plans to extend to that all employees in all workplaces as soon as possible.
Now, ACT’s David Garrett, a former employment lawyer, tells us that there is nothing to worry about because only “3-5%” of employers are bad employers who are going to abuse this new law by sacking people without justifiable grounds. He also said only “3-5%” of employees are bad employees who need to be sacked. Basically, what he is telling us is that the law transfers the risk from employers to employees. Under the previous law, an employer had to go through a fair, unonerous dismissal process and have fair reasons for that dismissal if they were unlucky enough to get a bad employee. Now, the risk is on the employee – you take the risk, if you go into work with a small or medium-sized business, of getting one of the bad employers and unfairly losing your income, your livelihood, your occupation. A small risk to employers has been traded for a large risk for employees.
I tell you what, I know not all employers are bad but I won’t be taking any jobs at small or medium-sized businesses, not worth the risk. I would only take such a job if the pay was higher to compensate for the added risk. I imagine that all high skill workers will think the same way. High skill workers will steer away from small and medium-sized businesses. And when National/ACT extends it to all businesses, high skill workers will find a nice safe job and stay there, creating a rigid workforce inimical to economic growth.
But the people we should be worried about are those who don’t have the choice. It is always those people that are referred to as ‘vulnerable workers’ (although I don’t like that dis-empowering term) who have no choice. They have to take what work they can get. Getting a job will be a game of Russian Roulette for them, with a “3-5%” chance of losing it all. Many won’t risk playing that game at all.
We’re in danger here of creating a US-style labour market. At the high skill end, you have workers who are afraid to change jobs (in their case, to protect their health insurance and other benefits). At the low skill end, you have abused, low-paid, under-employed workers who are used inefficiently and discarded on a whim by employers. This law does not put us in that situation but it does set us on that path.