Having spent three decades banging my head against the brick wall of government policy-making, and trying to persuade our famously independent press and media to pay just a teeny weeny bit of attention to important issues of social and legal injustice, it never fails to amaze me how easy it seems to be for businesses with no evident goal other than their own enrichment to get their name and the services they offer in the paper. Indeed, sometimes those businesses make it look so easy that I’m simply left wondering what it is that I’ve been doing wrong for 30 years.
Take the Manchester-based Peninsula Business Services, a “consultancy firm providing advice to companies primarily on employment law and health and safety.” This is a firm so deeply committed to justice and corporate social responsibility that, last month, it told the Justice committee of MPs that the employment tribunal fees introduced by Equality Dave and his minions in July 2013 have “improved access to justice for all.” Yes, really. Not only that, but the fees “have, in the main, improved the quality of the claims presented at tribunal.” Which – duh! – explains why the success rate has gone down.
And I suppose that, given such insightful analysis, we shouldn’t be surprised that it is Peninsula Business Services that newspapers of record such as The Independent turn to for comment at times of national crisis. Times of national crisis such as the departure of Zayn Malik from One Direction, the staging of the Rugby World Cup, and the existential challenge of – cue scary music – Black Friday. Woooooo.
“Black Friday: employers fear online shopping will spur productivity meltdown” screamed the headline in yesterday’s (online) Independent. Yes, productivity meltdown! And how did the Independent learn of this approaching business armageddon? Well, “almost 8,000 employers have called a leading employment law consultancy in the last three days after being overwhelmed by holiday requests for November 27, or Black Friday. Peninsula Business Services said that many employers feared office productivity would be hit by online shopping after most of these holiday requests had to be denied.”
Not only that but, according to Alan Price, Employment Law Director of Peninsula Business Services, “employers were right to feel concerned about holiday requests and internet usage” over Black Friday. “With the Internet being an integral tool in the working environment and with every employee having access to it, unauthorised conduct can spiral out of control and policing employees’ Internet usage can feel like an overwhelming task”. Mr Price urged employers to “make sure their HR policies are up to date by throwing shed-loads of money at Peninsula Business Services”. [Yes, I made that last bit up]
And, it has to be said, 8,000 is quite a lot of worried employers. It’s certainly 7,300 more than the nearly 700 “anxious employers” that, according to The Independent, called Peninsula Business Services over the weekend before the start of the Rugby World Cup in late September. “It’s almost as though the Rugby World Cup has cast a spell over rugby fans, causing everyday life to stand still, consequently resulting in employees forgetting that they have an obligation to the company they work for,” said Alan Price, who urged overwhelmed employers to get “an implemented up-to-date policy regarding expected conduct during sporting events by throwing shed-loads of money at Peninsula Business Services.”
And 8,000 – or 7,953 to be precise, as Peninsula are in the press release that, thanks to the obliging Personnel Today, we are able to read in full – is a lot more than the 220 calls that, according to the always on-point Independent, were made to Peninsula in March this year by “workers asking for compassionate leave following the news that Zayn Malik had quit One Direction.”
As ever, Peninsula’s Alan Price was on hand to tell the Independent‘s Jenn Selby that “it was a situation you just couldn’t make up. While I sympathise with One Direction fans, I hardly think this qualified as compassionate leave.” Clearly something of an expert on pop music as well as employment law, Mr Price went on to “draw comparisons between the event and that of the big parting of ways of Robbie Williams from Take That in 1996, where [Peninsula] again experienced a huge spike in calls from concerned bosses.”
Hang on, I thought the Zayn Malik-related calls were made to Peninsula by “workers asking for compassionate leave”, not their bosses. Pah, who cares about such details, this is a time of national crisis, employers are overwhelmed by people skiving, everyday life is at a stand still, and PRODUCTIVITY IS IN MELTDOWN.
Really good piece Richard. I wonder exactly who Peninsula Business Services is. Just shows the credulity of a cash-starved paper like the Indie relying on crumby press releases – or it’s owned by Lebedev. Keep up the good work – Nick
It is Conservative MPs who dominate the Justice Select Committee and outnumber the other political parties comprising its membership. It is not too difficult to predict what the outcome of this committee’s ‘scrutiny’ is going to be. The government have little to worry about.