Creating a fairer Britain
The Equality and Human Rights Commission today launches a short tailored guide to the downturn for small businesses. The guide contains advice on flexible working as an alternative to losing staff and understanding the law around redundancy.
The publication, Managing the downturn and preparing for recovery, is the first in a series aimed at small businesses which often do not have in-house access to professional HR advice.
Around 13 million people work in 4.7 million small businesses in the UK. The sector has been growing with more than 500,000 people starting their own business every year. Ninety-seven per cent of these businesses employ fewer than 20 people.
Recent research on the economic downturn shows that up to 600,000 jobs could be lost during 2009; many of them from small businesses which are closing at a rate of around 85 every day.
The guide is designed so businesses can approach the challenges they face fairly and ensure they comply with the law. It is unlawful to make an employee redundant because of their gender (including transsexual people), religion, age, sexual orientation or because they are pregnant or disabled.
It contains an outline of the redundancy process in respect of discrimination law and frequently asked questions, based on specific queries and concerns that small business owners have shared with the Commission. It also provides details of organisations such as ACAS which can help with information on redundancy and employment law.
In addition, the guide includes information on different forms of flexible working, such as part time, job sharing, flexible hours and remote working. These alternatives to redundancies can help with reducing costs and be popular with employees who may already be keen on exploring different ways of working. They may also be the best way of protecting people from the adverse effects of the downturn.
Nicola Brewer, Chief Executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: “We start from the premise that the vast majority of businesses want to do the right thing by their staff. They regard their employees as their most valuable asset and they can see the benefit of treating them fairly. But we recognise that the law around equality and discrimination can be confusing and intimidating for people who don’t have a human resource specialist. Our research with small businesses tells us they are crying out for short, easy to use guides in this area. They will help small businesses understand their legal obligations and give them ideas about how to develop best practice in a way that is tailored to their size.
“We have started with a guide to the downturn because of the deteriorating economic climate. We understand that sometimes firms will have no option but to shed staff. When this happens we know business owners will want to do it in a way that is fair to all their staff and avoids the waste of time and energy taken up by grievance and tribunal processes.
“We also want to help business consider alternatives. Investment in recruiting and training employees is often wasted when redundancies occur and a committed, loyal and expert workforce is key to ensuring you‘re able to exploit any improvements in the economic climate. Flexible working can help companies retain good employees.”
The guide can be found at: www.here4business.net. (from 00.01hrs, 27/01/09)
For further information, and to arrange interviews, please contact the Equality and Human Rights Commission Media Office:
T: 02031170255, out of hours: 07767272818
Notes to Editors
The Equality and Human Rights Commission is a statutory body established under the Equality Act 2006, which took over the responsibilities of Commission for Racial Equality, Disability Rights Commission and Equal Opportunities Commission.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission is the independent advocate for equality and human rights in Britain. It aims to reduce inequality, eliminate discrimination, strengthen good relations between people, and promote and protect human rights.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission enforces equality legislation on age, disability, gender, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation or transgender status, and encourage compliance with the Human Rights Act. It also gives advice and guidance to businesses, the voluntary and public sectors, and to individuals.