A top employment lawyer claims to have identified a flaw in the Coalition’s campaign to reduce the number of people in ‘crazy non-jobs’.
‘The legislation as currently framed deals only with employees, who by definition have jobs,’ said Sharon Aston of leading law firm Linklaters. ‘I would need to get Counsel’s opinion, but I believe there is a prima facie case for saying non-job holders fall entirely outside the scope of the law and can't be removed.’
Ms Aston said the Government’s position was bad enough with ordinary non-jobs, but with crazy non-jobs it became almost untenable, thanks to the application of the Disability Discrimination Act to mental health issues.
‘You have to be so careful nowadays that the irritating office wag, normally the first to go in a clearout, only has to have one of those “You don’t have to be mad to work here but it helps” stickers at their workstation, and you can’t touch ’em, and that’s with proper jobs,’ she said. ‘Now consider someone who dresses as a clown to teach children to eat fruit, a typical crazy non-job: it’s a legal minefield.’
A spokesman for the Department of Work and Pensions said that even if redundancies could be pushed through, the problems wouldn’t stop there. ‘Many of these people are only fit for non-jobs anyway, so you’d be looking at having to create a special non-jobseeker allowance for them at considerable cost, although I suppose some of them could be used to administer it.’
Ms Aston agreed, saying there just weren’t enough non-jobs in the private sector to absorb the surplus. ‘There are a few at the top level, such as some of the non-executive directorships that former ministers go for. These are officially known as sinecures, but that’s just Latin for non-job. But below board level, there’s not much at all.’
Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan-Smith, said all of this was news to him, but nobody ever told him anything anyway. ‘You know, I sometimes get the feeling that all the decisions are being taken elsewhere and that I’m not really in gainful employment at all,’ he said.