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Red tape a crying shame

Date 17 Sep 2006
Author The Editor
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Business legislation changes are reducing some small business owners to tears, claims the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), who run a legal helpline for SME owners/managers.The helpline, run in association with Abbey Legal Services, receives an average of 240 calls a day from FSB members struggling with employment law. Analaysis of the calls reveals that small firms accept the legal protection needed for employees but object to the complex nature of the legislation, the sheer weight and volume of it and the lack of impartial official advice from the Government and regulators. Small business owners - who do not have a Human Resources Department - fear that asking a question of a regulator will lead to an aggressive official enquiry when advice would ensure compliance with the law much more easily. Age discrimination legislation enquiries has seen an 871% increase in calls, and new statutory grievance and disciplinary procedures have resulted in a 40% rise in disciplinary enquiries and a 112% increase in grievance calls.Dr Murray Fairclough, Managing Director Abbey Legal Services, said: “Small firms already spend an average of 28 hours a week filling in forms. This disincentive to employ people, built in to the sheer weight and complexity of employment law, and it is a threat to the UK economy. “Thirteen million people are employed by small businesses, over half of the private sector workforce. To hold them back is to hold the UK economy back and the Government has to address that through a lighter regulatory touch. “We have had calls from business owners in tears because they want to follow the law but it is too complicated or time-consuming to get to grips with. There is no-one in official agencies who can be trusted to advise them without triggering an enquiry as well.”

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