Small businesses fail to grasp basic employment legislation

The UK’s smaller businesses are struggling to come to terms with even the
most basic employment laws while many believe legislation is actually having a
negative effect on employment practices.

Research by Consult GEE suggested that many employers are unable to answer
questions about holidays and maternity leave, let alone deal with more complex
legislation such as the Disability Discrimination Act.

A poll of 700 small-to-medium employers found that a fifth wrongly believe
they can change contracts without consent, while a third is so confused by new
flexible working regulations they think anyone is entitled to apply.

Only half of those questioned knew how much holiday employees are legally
entitled to each year and just 20 per cent fully understood equal pay

There was also confusion around health and safety laws, with six out of 10
bosses unsure of the requirements.

More than 90 per cent admitted that their firm found it hard to keep up with
changes in employment legislation and many felt they were too focused on the

A separate report by the Small Business Council (SBC) found widespread
opinion that regulations were too complex for the majority of smaller employers
to understand.

The research also suggested that rather than driving improvements,
employment laws can create discrimination and actively discourage employers
from recruiting certain types of individuals.

SBC chairman William Sargent said: "Policy makers need to consider
alternatives to regulation because it does not always work. The research proves
that regulation should be used only as a last resort."

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