Business, red tape, regulation, the Nanny State and the Land of the Free

As most of we small business owners already know, in UK from 1st April 2009 all workers are entitled to 5.6 weeks paid holiday, which is 28 days for a worker on a five day week. Well, quite right too, you might say if you are not the business owner who has to grant all the employees this extra leave, with no compensation from the Government, so generous with all our money.

Now, please understand that I do acknowledge the value of having family time, and all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy (and Jill a dull girl, I suppose). However, with this latest addition to paid leave and the prospect of even longer maternity and (probably) paternity leave the small business owner is bound to come under great pressure, given that we are in a recession, profits are under the hammer and cash flow is tight. Indeed the employee-leave element is very likely to be what breaks the camel’s back, though it is hardly a straw, but an additional heavy burden.

I have recently been in the United States. Now, the recession is biting hard and there is news daily about jobs lost or expected to be lost throughout the US, property foreclosures and the rest. Americans work very hard in that they have far less paid leave than their European counterparts. As I understand it there is no statutory minimum for paid leave in the US, and most employers give between 10 and 20 days, and no doubt this depends on their jobs market. I am certainly not saying that in Europe there should be no statutory minimum; I am just wondering how the British Government, in collusion with the EU, has managed to get up to 28 days; a terrible millstone around the necks of small business in general.

I freely admit I once had entitlement to 28 days paid leave. It came after 30 years of employment and was earned through seniority and value to my employer. I started as the office junior on three weeks leave, and my parents started on two (and they worked Saturdays). I was not even allowed paid leave to take professional exams, in which my employers saw no value.

Few small business owners are able to award themselves 28 working days leave, Monday to Friday. Most work many more hours, though this time is not always productive. Talk to me about that or buy Clare Evans’ book. No, I am not on commission.

I felt a little downhearted returning to the over-taxed UK from the still free independent US where I saw no speed cameras and where everyone is carrying on regardless without too much wailing and gnashing of teeth. I know which economy will bounce back first, and it won’t be the over-taxed, over-regulated, social network monitoring (and probably steaming open our letters), paranoid Nanny-State UK.

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