As I might have mentioned (once or twice) I started work at Salford CAB this Monday. So far I’ve spent most of my time reading up on the CAB approach to advice on a range of issues, ahead of actually Advising some Citizens next week.
One thing that’s struck me is the slightly depressing, but inevitable, point made throughout the CAB’s advice-for-advisers: that as well as letting clients know what their rights are, you also have to let them know how regrettably unrealistic it often is that these rights can be enforced.
This is particularly true with reference to employment, when every negotiation an employee makes with their employer has to be done with the ‘local employment situation’ in mind. As in: if they keep complaining about being sexually harassed or having their pay docked or not having their request for flexible working considered to the point where it makes more sense to leave their employer altogether, will they be able to get another job? Or would it be more sensible to put up with it?
In the current climate I can imagine a lot of employees saying the latter – and I’ve heard union representatives say that their job is always harder in a recession.
Which is why, when I got home today, I was interested to see an email from James Purnell about the Future Jobs Fund (despite it being an eye-wateringly boring email). It seems clear that this fund – set up to create jobs for young people at risk of long-term unemployment – is aimed at preventing people from falling into an unemployment trap in the first place and becoming a ‘lost generation’; but if more people already in employment have confidence that jobs are being created in their area, it may give them more confidence in standing up for their rights at work.
Obviously the Future Jobs Fund isn’t going to achieve that rise in confidence on its own – what scheme could? – but, you know, baby steps…