Employment law - complex and possibly costly - Business Works
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Employment law - complex and possibly costly

Phil McCabe, CEO of Forum of Private Business E mployment law is a complex area - both for business owners and for their staff.

But often it’s the former who stands to lose the most when something is not done by the book. Not following the proper procedures can be very costly.

For some time, the balance of employment law has been weighted in favour of employees, even those with axes to grind - catching out employers who have failed to stick to the letter of the law on issues such dismissal. The ‘no win, no fee’ tribunal solicitor has been no friend of small businesses either.

It’s no surprise at all then that employment law is a subject which routinely generates the highest number of calls to our member helpline service at the Forum of Private Business.

In fact, over a five week in the lead up to the common commencement day on 1 October – a date when new legislation comes into force - employment law was the single biggest call generator to the helpline. A significant 65% of the calls were from employers seeking professional legal advice on employment problems.

As with much of the legislation that affects small businesses, employment law can be a minefield. One of the main issues employers have is that is constantly changes, meaning it is very difficult to keep track of.

For example, most recently one of the biggest developments came with the Agency Workers Regulations, which effectively hand temporary workers the same rights as permanent staff. The move has the real potential to affect business owners relying on a flexible labour market.

The Forum is campaigning for less employment law red tape in order to help small firms create jobs and grow the economy. We have welcomed the Business Secretary, Vince Cable’s announcement that apprenticeship laws and regulations will be relaxed by 1 January 2012.

The Skills Funding Agency has been told to remove all health and safety requirements for apprentices in the workplace that are additional to those required by law. As part of a 'bonfire' of legislation that will see more than half the health and safety rules and regulations currently in force removed over a three-year period, this will make it more appealing for employers to recruit apprentices.

It’s also hoped a separate SME review will be commissioned to further remove bureaucracy and examine what more could be done to encourage more businesses to take on apprentices.

In the meantime, while the burdens of employment law remain a major barrier to doing business, keeping up with changes and putting in place watertight procedures should continue to be a key priority for all employers. It is important to know your responsibilities – and act accordingly so you don't fall foul of the law.

To help small businesses negotiate the legal pitfalls they face, and provide peace of mind when they are employing staff, the Forum provides a regularly updated Employment Guide covering every aspect of employment law.

For more information, visit: www.fpb.org

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