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A fair chance for Ninety Days

According to a recent Government announcement, businesses will be able to employ people for a 90-day-trial period before committing to a long-term employment agreement.

The idea is to give both employers and employees an opportunity to test the arrangement before it is set in stone.

Currently, this is only possible for businesses that employ less than 20 staff.

Despite the protests of a few commentators, the law actually has the potential to benefit many people who would otherwise struggle to find employment.

Without trial periods, taking on a new employee becomes a major commitment for an employer. If they hire someone and it doesn’t work well, there is little they can do about it. Employers are thereby encouraged to be very cautious in their hiring, not taking risks on those who may not be a “safe” choice.

Trial periods allow an employer to give people a chance without putting too much of their business’s security on the line. This is most likely to benefit those who have been long-term unemployed or have a chequered history.

Internationally trial or probationary employment periods are common.

The main critique of 90-day-trial periods seems to have come from those who assume employers and employees are inevitably caught in a power struggle.

Matt McCarten in the Herald on Sunday called this “class war,” likening employees to “servants” and employers to “masters.”

This is not a fair characterisation of such relationships.

Much of the time, the relationship between employers and employees is one of mutual benefit. Trial periods allow that relationship to be negotiated between the parties involved. While there are “bad bosses” who may use this law as an excuse to hire and fire quickly, this will ultimately be bad for business; it is in their best interest to retain staff and avoid the constant expense of hiring and training.

The Government’s announcement came after a Labour Department report evaluated the impact of this arrangement on businesses that employ less than 20 staff.

In the first year since trial periods began for such businesses, the report found that the impact has been mostly positive for employers and for the employees surveyed.

Commentators have correctly warned that the Report’s scope was limited and it was inconclusive on such matters as whether or not it has created new job opportunities. Nonetheless, the initial indications are positive and we can be optimistic about the potential benefits.

Both employers and employees stand to benefit from this new arrangement.

Read related report in this section.

-Maxim Institute

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