Small businesses are facing increasing problems because of the complexity of employment law, said the Federation of Small Businesses.

The organisation provides a free legal helpline for its members and has seen the number of calls rise by 8% in 2006 with over 76,000 calls coming in last year at an average rate of over 200 per day. The rise, it claims, was due to new or proposed legislation on age, religion and sexual orientation.

The main areas of concern, which have seen large increases since 2005, were:

  • Age discrimination – up 664%

  • Information and consultation – up 439%

  • Part-time workers – up 68%

  • Pensions – up 23%

  • Retirement – up 88% 

Other forms of discrimination such as on religious or sexual orientation increased by 92% and 56% respectively.

FSB employment chairman Alan Tyrrell said: “Employment law is vital to ensure employers and employees know where they stand and to protect both parties.

“However, the complexity of these laws is placing an intolerable burden on smaller firms that don’t have their own HR department. The average small business owner spends 28 hours per month filling in forms for the Government.”