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When staff are trouble...

Businesses do not need to become very large before they start running into personnel problems, writes Roger Trapp. Indeed, it is arguable that a difficult member of staff can cause greater trouble in a small organisation than in a large one because they are more noticeable.

In the absence of a professional, many small enterprises are tempted to either ignore the problem, with the result that it becomes worse, or to deal with it in an inappropriate way.

Help has been available through some small organisations for a while. But now Grant Thornton, a firm of accountants and business advisers, offers it on a national basis.

The Personnel Management Service, launched by the firm late last month, aims to give small to medium-sized companies access to specialist human resource advice without having to employ a full-time personnel specialist.

Andrew Godfrey, Grant Thornton's head of growth and development, said the scheme was introduced to help companies deal with employment and personnel legislation - a "potential minefield".

The service also provides peace of mind should anything go wrong. With figures showing that increasing numbers of employees are taking action over employment rights, the package includes insurance to cover the cost of contesting an industrial tribunal case and awards made against the business.

Other benefits include a personnel review, which entails a visit by a personnel specialist to review personnel systems, policies and procedures, a personnel procedure manual produced as a result of the review and a telephone hotline to provide advice.

The cost of the service depends on the size of the business, but prices start at a pounds 2,750 start-up fee, plus pounds 2,100-a-year running costs for companies with up to 50 employees.