Mixed response to Anderson Review

Sarah Anderson’s review of health, safety and employment legislation is welcomed, but some suggest cutting legislation affecting small businesses is better than more support.

By News Desk
29th January 2009 at 10:24

Sarah Anderson Review of SME legislationSmall business owner Sarah Anderson has released her independent review on the impact of health, safety and employment legislation on UK SMEs.

In the report she proposes creating a one-stop-shop offering free advice on how to comply with legislation in this area.

The review suggests creating a telephone advice service free to SMEs for the first year which offers ‘insured advice’ i.e. advice you can apply knowing your business will be complying with the law.

It also suggests that government guidance should be more authoritative and eliminate the provisos and disclaimers, so that small and medium sized businesses feel they can trust and rely on the advice they’re being given.

Anderson also recommends a single point for government advice to SMEs, presumably something the Business Link website will pick up.

On releasing her review she 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.

Small businesses pay over £1.4 billion a year on advice in order to comply with government regulation according to the report.

Her recommendations were met positively by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI). Director of employment policy, Katja Hall said:

Viewed together, the Anderson Review recommendations will significantly help employers, particularly SMEs, comply with the daunting volume of regulation business faces.

But some were a little more sceptical.  Forum of Private Business ceo Phil Orford pointed out that a cut in legislation would be preferable, rather than government intervening to provide advice on compliance that others in the private and public sector were already doing.

While all SMEs are going to prefer to embrace free reliable advice on these issues, rather than pay for it, there is a fundamental issue here.

How much will it cost government to provide all this guidance?

A reduction in legislation would really reduce costs, both for SMEs and government.

An increase in government supported guidance is only going to add another layer of cost. It may also discourage reductions in the volume of legislation as a whole tier of bureaucracy is developed to provide authoritative guidance on the subject.

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