Great things can grow out of traumatic events. In 1948, following the Second World War, our National Health Service was established (thanks to the vision and courage of its pioneers) I believe the Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated the need, and provided the stimulus, for establishing now a ‘National Employment Service’ (NES).
As with our brilliant NHS, the NES would be available to all at the point of need. It would exist alongside the public and private employment sectors, but it would provide a ‘safety net’ to ensure that the means exist for all to participate in the creation of our national wealth and to share in the benefits of our mutual efforts.
At present, unemployed people receive ‘benefits’, funds given to them, so that they can live. During the pandemic, with millions more becoming unemployed, more demands have been placed on the benefit system. These funds, with those aimed at facilitating job retention (the furlough system), are irrecoverable.
In re-thinking this, we now have the opportunity to design a better system of employment and, more importantly, one that recognises that human nature and dignity require people to be able to earn their income, feel valued, respected by all, and become contributors to the ‘Common Good’.
The NES would provide the means of ensuring full employment and a dynamic system that can respond to changing needs or emergencies. It would provide the means whereby all those who wish to be employed have that opportunity. They would earn a living wage (at least), discover and develop their talents, and as a consequence of secure, stable and continuous employment, be confident about forward planning and commitments, living a life without the anxiety resulting from the fear of unemployment and loss of livelihood.
Membership of the NES
Those unemployed for twelve months or more would automatically be invited to join the NES and informed that instead of receiving benefits, they would henceforth be employed by the NES.
Others could choose to join the NES, e.g. on leaving full time education, when seeking a change in direction, or when making a geographical change in the location of their employment, at any stage of their working life. This should ensure a good skill and experience mix within the NES and potentially enhance the scope and quality of the services it could provide.
With the NES as their employer, members would earn an index-linked living wage (at least), plus N.I. contribution and access to a pension scheme, in return for continued participation as employees. Level of remuneration would take account of qualifications, experience, and level of job responsibility.
Entry into Employment
Those newly registering with the NES would have an in-depth interview at their local Job-Centre Plus. Following a welcome, it would be explained to them that the NES aims to achieve high standards of knowledge, skill, and behaviour, and a work force the Nation can be proud of.
Interviews carried out by JCP staff would discover the areas of knowledge, skill, and vocational preferences, of each individual and then allocate them to the appropriate category (or categories) of work under which they would be listed. Induction programmes (including in-service training) and supportive specialist help would be arranged where needed. JCP staff would also be responsible for checking qualifications, DBS checks, etc. which would be archived for any future reference.
At last, JCP staff would revert to their original role of helping people to be employed – a welcome end to their current task of checking on each individual’s job-seeking activities, and issuing of punitive sanctions (withholding of benefits), a source of much distress to many vulnerable people.
Funding the NES and its Launch
The NES would recoup much of the cost of the wages/salaries it pays to its registered members (plus administrative and other expenses), by hiring their services to the wider world of work. The existence of the newly established ‘National Employment Service’ and its workforce would be made known by a widely based National programme of advertising and information provision. An invitation to hire members of the NES, would be sent to all potential employers and firms, in the public and private sectors, strongly promoting recognition of the benefits of engaging them:
• ready availability of appropriately trained & qualified, reliable, vetted, and insured workers;
• attractive and competitive rates of hire they will be contracted to pay to the NES;
• rates/conditions of service set by the NES in agreement with professional bodies & Unions;
• freedom from documentation/administering of wages, NI, pensions, sick-leave payments, redundancy & tenure issues, maternity/paternity leave, etc., as the NES is the employer ;
• a free specialist advice and support service, offered by the NES for hiring its workers;
To be known as the ‘Hirers’, these firms would cover the whole range of industry and commerce, without exception, including health, education, caring services, financial services, manufacturing, construction and demolition, waste disposal, recycling, transport (passenger and commercial), warehousing, distribution (wholesale & retail), agriculture, tourism, and the leisure industry.
Benefits to our Economy, Recovery from the Pandemic and our International role.
A National Employment Service would benefit the UK Economy whilst yielding vitally important human and social benefits, boosting national confidence, enabling us to ‘pull together’ after the pandemic and Brexit, cementing the bonds that hold Society together.
Initial costings show the NES to be viable. Instead of being a cost, previously unemployed people would now become a benefit, contributing to their cost of living, making fewer calls on medical/social services.
As with our NHS, a successful NES would be a World first! Whilst demonstrating our respect for human rights, it could be promoted as a system the World could emulate.
The right to work, Article 23(1) of the ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ proclaimed by the United Nations in 1948, which we in the UK signed, states:
“Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just
and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment”
Establishing our National Employment Service would demonstrate compliance