Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Nanny goes to work

Quick! Hide your lunchbox. The boss is coming. Put that donut down and pull the reserve apple out of your desk drawer.

Sounds like some sort of Orwellian nightmare, doesn’t it? However, this sort of thing could be happening to you at work if the coalition government gets its way. Despite pledging to butt out of our business and roll back the nanny state, it appears that our politicians have been hijacked by the usual bunch of self-serving busybodies who infest the third sector these days.

Under the sinister sounding Health at Work Network, companies and other organisations are being urged to sign up to ‘guidelines’ to help employees get fitter. The actual words used are: ‘help employers use the workplace to improve the health of their employees’ and ‘help people at work lead healthier lifestyles’. These days the word ‘help’ is pregnant with threat and euphemism.

So, as well as managing your work, your line manager could soon be responsible for monitoring the food you eat, the alcohol you drink or even whether you smoke. These guidelines, as with all government guidelines, are there to change people’s behaviour. But if companies don’t enforce these guidelines vigorously enough, the government menacingly hints that laws could be introduced to make sure that we’re all poked and prodded into doing physical jerks and never sampling a bacon sandwich ever again.

If you think it sounds far fetched, you only have to look east, in the direction of Japan. There the government has charged companies with making sure that employees lose weight and get fit. Companies that fail to literally slim down their workforce face fines and sanctions. Presumably all employees are weighed weekly, in much the same way that a farmer might weigh his cows to gauge when they're ready for slaughter. Well, now it’s about to happen here.

So what sort of things could we expect from this nonsense? Free gyms in the workplace? Possibly... but far more likely we’ll see cheaper options such as workplace vending machines stocked with apples and mineral water rather than Cola and crisps. Expect to see limits on the amount of alcohol served at the company Christmas party or even physical fitness playing a part in your annual performance appraisal. For instance, the proposals call on companies to offer ‘responsibly-sized portions’ in works’ canteens. Only government can make the word ‘responsible’ sound sinister.

How on earth have we arrived at the situation where the government is now poking its corporate nose into the grown-up relationship between employer and employee? We already have companies laying down government inspired rules on things like jokes in the workplace or other behaviour in the office, and it’s about to get worse. Perhaps we’ll soon have a government sponsored spook in every office in much the same way that the SS had a man on every U-boat during the war.

All I can say is... thank goodness I’m freelance.

14 comments:

  1. Isn't this a potential breach of Articles 8 and 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights?

    Article 8 – the right to respect for one's "private and family life".
    Compulsory monitoring of what I eat or drink, my body shape or my muscle/fat ratio is a direct interference in my private life.

    Article 9 – Freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
    I have a right to my own beliefs and that includes not having the religious beliefs of politicians, medical officers and so-called medical staff foisted on me. They may worship an idealised human body, believe that an anorexic body shape is desirable or that the attainment of a mystical number called "the optimal BMI" is the path to follow but they have no right to subject others to their religious cant nor compel them to observe their beliefs in particular modes of life or religious dietary compliance.
    JohnB

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  2. It probably is but I'm not sure Europe as a whole really values individuals' human rights. It loves the grand concept but government wishes always seem to trump individual rights.

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  3. Travelling Woman24 March 2011 10:41

    Well this does sound awfully like life under the German National Socialist Workers' Party. We've already got a shrill "healthy" food lobby at my job so the canteen tends to be very self-righteous. Personally I can't wait to retire.

    Hope your leg is still improving.

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  4. I saw this in another news item and I think it describes exactly what the autocratic health freaks are trying to do.

    "... compare it to Nazism -- it's when you try to turn a group of people into pariahs so that you can control them."

    Ciao
    JohnB

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  5. I am glad I mostly travel, though I do try to keep healthy snacks in my lunchbox I don't want to be dictated to...

    Sounds to me like we have a bigger issue, if we are all too healthy we live longer and need more pension... they will keep raising the pension age as a result. Nanny should keep her nose to herself methinks

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  6. In case you haven't seen this, it appears that part of the government, the NHS Information Centre, is withdrawing from a survey collecting statistics on what we eat and drink, amongst other things.
    http://www.pressassociation.com/component/pafeeds/2011/03/25/call_for_rethink_on_nhs_data_cut?camefrom=health-wire
    As the General Lifestyle Survey only covers 15,000 households one wonders how accurately it reflects actuality. The story states that this is a plan to axe Government funding of this survey and as such a "gross abdication of responsibility" but it seems that other parts of the government will probably still be participating in this survey in the guise of the Office for National Statistics, the Department for Work and Pensions, HM Revenue & Customs and the Scottish Government.
    Seems like some piggy at the trough is upset at the loss of even a mere £300,000 from its swill.

    I don't suppose that £300,000 will be directed towards hospital food? Every little bit would help - if it was ring-fenced for a start and kept out of the grubby paws of the contract catering companies.
    JohnB

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  7. Thanks, John. That's really useful. I hadn't seen it. Will dig deeper.

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  8. Todays Daily Mail Mark ...

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1370944/Why-21st-century-NHS-patients-dying-agony-bedsores.html

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  9. Perhaps this will make hospital food illegal?

    There must be an up side to this?

    Bill

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  10. I don't think it works like that, Bill. It's too easy.

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  11. Just heard..... Cameron ( the weeble) has donated 650 million to Pakistan.

    We all move to Pakistan then ?

    The state UK is in we might as well dwell in caves.

    UK has become a total mental asylum and the government a total circus.


    I despair.

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  12. He has also said "Britain is responsible for many of the world’s historic problems, including the conflict in Kashmir between India and Pakistan" according to a DT report, 9:49PM BST 05 Apr 2011.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/david-cameron/8430899/David-Cameron-Britain-caused-many-of-the-worlds-problems.html

    He doesn't seem to have too clear a grasp of British and World history. Many problems existed before the UK was invented, let alone the brief period of the British Empire,C19 - mid C20. One wonders how he managed an Oxford PPE 1st class honours with such a simplistic view of world history. Maybe when they allegedly manage to revise the UK education system yet again he should attend a few world history classes.

    What else can you expect from someone whose experience of life has been Prep school, Eton, Oxford, Conservative Research Dept, a non-job as Director of Corporate affairs for Carlton and thence a UK MP. No working his way up a greasy pole, scrimping and saving for a 1st mortgage, working outside the home counties, living and working outside the UK, Europe even.
    JohnB

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  13. PPE was never considered a particularly rigorous degree. I believe it was set up as a rather undemanding course for aristos to be able to make it through Oxford and still come out with a piece of sheepskin despite spending most of their time throwing up over Magdalen Bridge.

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  14. Saw this today - one law for us, no law and oodles of gelt for them. They obviously have to get their priorities right.

    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/finance/ianmcowie/100009953/why-should-mps-be-exempt-from-new-law-to-block-tax-avoidance/

    I can remember when MPs didn't get expenses, and their pay, although they were and are deemed to be self-employed, was tied to the then HEO's scale. The Labour Party of the time claimed that disenfranchised them, stopping their members from being MP's because, being honest socialists working for their constituents, they didn't have the directorships that the other parties' MPs had - therefore could not afford to give up their day jobs to be MPs.

    Methinks a return to the old days is long overdue.

    Ciao
    JohnB

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