Bosses deluged by laws

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The Independent Online

David Arculus, the Government's "red tape Tsar", will this week warn that businesses are being swamped by new employment laws.

In a report to be sent to Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt, the freshly appointed chairman of the Better Regulation Task Force will recommend that regulations are streamlined and alternatives to primary legislation considered.

Mr Arculus, also chairman of water company Severn Trent, is expected to say that small businesses in particular are struggling to keep on top of employment laws.

New rules in the past two years have included the publication of the Employment Bill, the Minimum Wage, working hours regulations and a host of directives from Europe. Hilary O'Connor, an employment expert at law firm SJ Berwin, said: "It's the small businessman on the street who gets caught."

Ms O'Connor criticised the Government for sometimes failing to advertise new employment regulations and said there were few official aven- ues for small businesses to go down for advice.

She highlighted employment tribunals as being particularly bureaucratic. "They are just too technical. They are just a forum for lawyers," said Ms O'Connor.

Last month the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants released the results of a survey showing that 66 per cent of small firms thought the Employment Bill would have a detrimental effect on their business.

And the Federation of Small Business's chairman, John Walker, said the Government was "removed from reality" if it thought the Bill would cut red tape.