Employment issues less of a concern, says business group

Signs that the recovery may be having an effect on smaller firms have come with figures released by the Forum of Private Business (FPB) on the numbers of employment-related calls its helpline received in the third quarter of the year.

The FPB reported that 38 per cent of calls to its advice centre focused on employment issues such as redundancy, grievances, dismissals or employee conduct.

The proportion was roughly in line with the previous two quarters.

But the business group noted that the actual number of calls had fallen. In the first quarter of the year, employment queries from FPB members totalled 1,665; in the second quarter, 1,221; but in the third quarter, only 817.

The data suggests that, as the economy begins to recuperate, fewer business owners are having to deal with the legal implications of staff performance and making redundancies.

Tom Parry, the FPB's research manager, commented: "When the economy was in turmoil and businesses were forced to cut costs severely and work more efficiently, the legal implications of redundancy and performance management issues were more of a concern for small business owners - clearly they are less so at present."

However, Mr Parry went on to say that, given the onus on small firms for taking responsibility for driving growth and job creation, employers must be given greater freedoms to make staffing decisions based on aptitude, attitude and performance without the fear of bureaucratic costs and the threat of tribunal claims.

He concluded: "At present much of the employment law that is supposed to protect workers is a significant barrier to job creation for many small firms.

"For too long the balance of legislation has unfairly favoured individual employees at the expense of smaller business employers - and often the rest of the workforce. This imbalance must be redressed."