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