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STRONG SUIT: The parent employer model

Dennis Strong

STRONG SUIT: The parent employer model

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Job creation is a global hot topic. Most economic growth strategies use increases in jobs as a positive indicator. Politicians and labour activists say that if unemployment is high, despair and social disorder will ensue. Sociologists and development organizations advocate job creation as a development tool and objective.
These premises raise some questions in my mind. Since the nature of work has changed and is still changing, how has the definition of employment/jobs adjusted to these changes? In my experience, human resource costs represent the largest portion of operating budgets in organizations, large and small. Compensation and benefits are only the beginning of those costs.
Using Barbados’ Employment Rights Act 2012 as an indicator, an employer must devote substantial legal, administrative and mental resources to ensure compliance with its various components. For example, the employer must predict and document, amidst the aforementioned changes in the nature of work, the duties to be carried out and how to disengage when they are not being performed satisfactorily or become redundant.
In either case, the time or energy required, is diverted from sustaining the viability of the enterprise. Essentially, an employer becomes responsible to and for the employee into the indeterminate future. When you add in the implications of the Shops Act, the Holiday With Pay Act and the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act; you can see why it is hard to have a productive workforce.
Changes to performance standards caused by technology or market conditions can easily place the employer before the Employment Rights Tribunal and bring necessary actions to a standstill. The threat and the reality of industrial action are major contributors to the high cost of doing business; especially in Barbados.
I am well aware of how the historic exploitation of workers raises the need for safeguards but a fractious industrial climate works to the disadvantage of everyone.
Certainly, a successful enterprise will have key tasks that exceed what an individual owner/employer can perform alone. It is also true that far too many people are working in jobs whose performance standards are absent, with bosses with no commitment to a nurturing work environment. I doubt we can legislate enlightened management and leadership. We certainly have not been able to guarantee reliable, productive workers with the integrity to exit when they are not contributing.
It is ironic that in an environment where there is so much emphasis on developing the small business sector as an economic driver, the combined weight of all these acts inhibits growth in this sector most of all.  If the owner of a small business hires one person, it can triple the fixed overhead. It takes at least 100 working days to see if the new employee is a good fit.
How can the employer gain the traction to grow the business if it has a continuing responsibility for and to this person?
These acts also inhibit the growth of freelancers.
These workers who have developed skills and competencies that are valuable in the marketplace, may have found jobs stifling, grown tired of carrying non-productive co-workers, or simply wish to define their own working conditions. If they land a long-term contract, they are pulled right back into the inertia of whether it should be considered full-time employment.
Not all employers are able to follow the “parent employer” model. God bless.