23 January 2007, 19:00 PM
  • Figures released today by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), show that UK small businesses are facing a growing headache because of the complexity of employment law.

The FSB, which provides a free legal helpline for its members to call when they have queries about employment legislation, saw an eight percent rise in the number of enquiries in 2006, with over 76,000 coming in, at an average rate of over 200 per day.

The main areas of concern, that have seen large increases since 2005, were age discrimination, up 664%; information and consultation – up 439%; part time workers up 68%; pensions 23%; retirement 88%; and other forms of discrimination on grounds such as religious or sexual orientation, up by 92% and 56% respectively.
The rise in queries on discrimination topics is due to new or proposed legislation on age, religion and sexual orientation. The increase in questions on pensions and retirement is down to proposed Government moves to act on pension provision for all workers. More calls have come in regarding information and consultation also because of changes in flexible working and age discrimination rules, requiring firms to inform and consult their workers on these issues. Part Time Workers questions are due to the proposed changes in annual leave arrangements for them and the uncertainty over the working time directive towards the end of 2006. All in all, there is a lot that small businesses need to think about.

Alan Tyrrell, FSB employment chairman, said, “Employment law is vital to ensure that both employers and employees know where they stand and to protect both parties as they carry out their work. However, the complexity of these laws is placing an intolerable burden on smaller firms who are not big enough to have their own HR department. The average small business owner spends 28 hours per month filling in forms for Government.
“Small businesses employ over half the private sector workforce, some 12 million people, and the UK economy depends on them for its success. Reducing the burden of red tape on small businesses will allow them to increase their activity and the number of people they employ – leading to a boost for both owners and workers.”