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Business News 2009
Business News->{One Stop Shop for Guidance on Health & Safety and Employment Issues
One Stop Shop for Guidance on Health & Safety and Employment Issues
(28 January 2009)

Sarah AndersonSmall businesses will get a one stop shop for guidance on health and safety and employment legislation, that will help make sure they comply with the law and save them time and money, under new recommendations announced today. An independent review, undertaken by small business person Sarah Anderson, has recommended a range of innovative solutions to improve the quality of guidance government gives to business. The recommendations are designed to increase compliance with the law, boost business confidence in government advice and cut costs for small businesses.

They include:

* a telephone advice service, free to SMEs for the first year, providing tailored and "insured advice" to make sure they comply with employment and health and safety law;

* Government taking responsibility for its guidance, removing disclaimers and encouraging discretion over prosecution of "reasonable" businesses; and

* creating a single access point for all government guidance.

Sarah Anderson said: "Many small businesses do not use and have little confidence in guidance from government. Where there is good guidance, they don't know where to go. Instead they choose to pay for advice, which they could get free or which might make them do more work than is necessary, to comply with the law.

"Improving the quality of, and access to, government advice is vital if we want to see better understanding of, and compliance with, the law. The vast majority of small businesses want to comply with the law. Government should give them a cost effective and efficient way for them to do so."

Almost half of all businesses use external advice about how to follow regulation, spending at least £1.4 billion per year on such services. Some 75% of medium sized enterprises report having paid for advice on employment or health and safety regulation. SMEs are disproportionately represented in employment tribunal applications, for example, with businesses with 50-249 employees generating 21 % of tribunal applications but only accounting for 4% of total employment.

In order to redress this imbalance the review focused on improving three areas: providing certainty over outcome; making guidance more accessible; and improving the clarity of guidance for businesses. Other proposals included a 'quick start' summary for each piece of guidance, setting out essential actions firms must follow to comply with the law. It recommended providing a range of channels through which businesses could access guidance, whether electronically, through printed material or face to face contact.

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