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Small Businesses Unclear on New Health and Safety Regulations
(13 September 2004)

Nearly two thirds of small businesses haven't thought about what they need to do to comply with upcoming health and safety regulations, which are due to affect their business from October 2004, according to a recent survey from NatWest Mentor Services, the regulatory advice service from NatWest. Surprisingly, however, over two thirds of small businesses say that they feel confident that they are up to date with new Health and Safety regulations.

From 1 October 2004, the Government is to introduce new Disability Discrimination regulations, which mean businesses with less than 15 employees will no longer be exempt from being required to make reasonable adjustments to cater for job applicants with disabilities. Although 64% knew about the change, only 27% have already taken any action.

At the same time, new data protection regulations are to be implemented that place a stronger emphasis on confidentiality, including what can be divulged to members of staff regarding the health of other employees. Surprisingly, 59% weren't aware of this change, but of those who did know, 55% had already taken the required actions or were in the process of implementing the changes.

Health and Safety regulations are increasingly at the forefront of a small firm's mind, with small businesses in Britain spending an average of 4.9 hours per month dealing solely with health and safety related regulations. This almost doubles for those businesses with a turnover of over 500,000.

Small businesses consider regulations related to health and safety to be the third most time consuming part of government related paperwork, with 49% placing it in their top three concerns. That said, over half of the respondents in the survey agree that the amount of regulation is necessary to ensure that businesses function properly when it comes to the health and safety of their employees.

Diane Christie, Head of NatWest Mentor Services, said: "Ensuring that you have the right health and safety practices in place is vitally important to any small business to protect themselves and their employees. However, there is an increasing number of regulations being introduced that small businesses are not aware of and even if they are aware, many have not yet taken the necessary action to ensure this legislation is implemented."

Notes to Editors:

  • Research carried out by Continental Research, week commencing 21st June 2004
  • 500 small businesses (under 1million turnover) were surveyed

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