Charles Moore Charles Moore

The Spectator’s Notes | 18 May 2017

Also in The Spectator’s Notes: stopping employers firing mentally disturbed staff is asking for trouble

‘Exclusive invitation: I want to hear from you, Charles’, it said in my inbox. Theresa May wanted me to take part in her ‘telephone town hall’, she told me, offering ‘an opportunity to voice your opinions and ask questions directly to me in a simple and open way’. Unfortunately, the line was open only between 7 and 8 on Tuesday night, and I was engaged elsewhere. One thing I might have asked was ‘Who do you listen to before you say something in public?’ Although Mrs May has a reputation for caution, she is capable of throwing out ideas which sound as if they have not been tested on the people they might affect. What employers — in particular, what small employers — were asked what they think of granting all employees a ‘statutory right to leave’ to give family members full-time care for up to 52 weeks? The Conservatives wish to be the party of the workers. For this to be achieved, however, they need to be the party of jobs. For jobs to exist, it must be affordable for businesses to provide them. Mrs May’s rush to impose ever more employees’ rights, regardless of cost, is happening at a time of virtually full employment. In harder times, this will falter. Then the Tories will deservedly become the party of unemployment once again.

Mrs May also promises to amend the Equalities Act to prevent employers from ‘unfairly’ dismissing those with mental disorders. It is a laudable aim, but imagine what would happen if businesses had to keep on a disturbed worker. Imagine what it would be like, not only for the employer, but for the other employees. In her speech on ‘the shared society’ in January, Mrs May pitched into the ‘burning injustice of mental health and inadequate treatment’.

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