Needed: Freedom to Hire and Fire Instantly

04Oct09

Business today changes very quickly, and so do the numbers and kinds of employees needed for a task.  To remain globally competitive, employers should have as much latitude as possible to acquire and eliminate employees on short notice.  Many problems arise when hiring or firing someone becomes a huge, time-consuming ordeal:  existing employees find themselves overworked or underworked, for example, execution of a plan gets bogged down, and the work environment becomes toxic as people hate to stay but are afraid to leave, given the complexity of finding another job.

To develop a job market in which people can be hired and fired promptly and with minimal hassle, certain things will have to change.  Requiring employers to pay for employee benefits makes no sense; it amounts to a penalty for hiring someone.  The job market gets distorted, in terms of the kinds of firms that can hire and the places that people prefer, when one organization is required to provide benefits while another, of a different size or type, is exempted.  There is usually no logical connection between employee benefits (e.g., dental insurance) and the type of job.  The better approach would be to require employers to provide supplementary benefits, or to pay an additional amount, only when the basic benefits available to everyone are not sufficient – when, for example, the job in question imposes excessive risks of physical injury.

And what is this concept of “the basic benefits available to everyone”?  Simply put, a decent nation does not abandon its own people.  Keeping people healthy and safe is a basic human value.  Businesses that are given a market environment, along with governmental and social support and encouragement in their self-serving efforts to deliver wealth for their owners and operators, must operate by the market principle of paying for what you get.  The costs to society of providing those opportunities to business need to be accounted for as accurately as possible, and businesses should pay for those opportunities just as they pay for other costs of doing business.

Employee benefits typically have nothing to do with workplaces.  The employer should not be saddled with them.  Business opportunities commonly take advantage of free and underpriced social and governmental resources.  They should pay for what they get.  In a business environment where jobs are more accurately perceived as providing opportunities to the employee, and also as preventing the employee from pursuing other opportunities with his/her time, perhaps jobs will eventually transition from being desperately needed mainstays of survival to being, instead, the kinds of things that most people do sometimes, like sports, shopping, and housecleaning.

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