Jinfo BlogAll tied up? Escaping the Tangle of Red Tape

Thursday, 1st March 2007

By Richard Morris

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'It doesn't affect me.'

'If I ignore it, maybe it will go away.'

'I don't have time for it.'

These are just a few of the claims that I have been treated to whilst working with this most unpopular of topics, handling policy and compliance for a number of organisations. Unfortunately none of this is actually true, regardless of the size, type or purpose of your business.

For those who haven't caught on, I'm talking about one of businesses' least favourite issues: red tape.

But there are three realities you must accept when facing bureaucratic entanglements:

1. Regulations are necessary. You wouldn't intentionally discriminate against an employee because of their sex, disability or race, but sometimes people can feel discriminated against even if no offence was intended. Regulations protect them.

2. Red tape is here to stay. This is the hardest message to get across. The government should be praised for its pledge to reduce red tape, but regulations will never completely disappear. Many pieces of legislation may be simplified but few will be removed.

3. The only way to avoid getting tied up in red tape is to deal with it. Wishing it away, ignoring it or pretending it isn't there will only cause you problems in the future.

Understanding these three points will help you to beat the burden of red tape. However there are two more obstacles to your dealing with legislation.

The first is to be aware of the regulations that affect you. This is crucial. If you don't know that laws exist then how are you supposed to comply with them?

The second is to understand how the regulations affect your business and what you need to do to comply. It is vital to know what laws apply to you, but useless if you don't understand any of them.

Fortunately, free help is at hand. Our mission at Red Tape Team http://www.red-tape.org/ is to provide free, impartial advice and guidance for businesses on issues of red tape.

So what do we do?

We do the work that no one else wants to do. Our aim is to help businesses fight their way through the maze of red tape. What is red tape? Red tape is the form-filling, the changes in law, the requirements put on your back by government and other organisations that take your time away from running your business. Whether it's the new equality law protecting workers from discrimination on the grounds of age, or new regulations putting responsibility on businesses for their own fire safety, red tape is the legislation that must be followed.

We research the legislation that affects businesses and produce free, easy-to-read fact sheets that outline what you need to know.

Here's one anecdote that shows how we help businesses: a small business owner contacted us several months ago and requested fact sheets on discipline and grievance procedures. From this the company made sure that their policies were up to date.

We got a phone call a few weeks ago from the same owner thanking us. He had just had to discipline and ultimately sack a member of staff who had repeatedly stolen from the office. The member of staff had tried to take the company to a tribunal, and if the policies had not been put in place, the dismissal could have been automatically unfair. This would have left the firm having to award the employee compensation, which could easily have been thousands of pounds.

A simple bit of information was all that was required to avoid a possible problem turning into a costly blow to the business.

How do we do it? When a piece of legislation is about to come into force, we read and research it so that we know how it will affect businesses. Instead of writing guidance filled with rhetoric and incomprehensible sentences, we write it in our own words, as we would want to read it.

Tips for avoiding red tape

Different regulations affect you in different ways, but by doing the groundwork from the word 'go,' you can make sure you are complying and save time, hassle and money in the future. Here are a few tips that get you started.

Reinforcements for battle

No matter how prepared you are to deal with red tape, you'll eventually have to face some part of it. But the battle can be more bearable with help. Below is a list of free resources that can give you support conquering it. You can access all of the guides below from <http://www.red-tape.org/initiatives.php?id=2>.

Get a copy of The Acas Model Workplace, which 'provides you with a yardstick against which you can measure the effectiveness of your employment relationships and can help you to identify areas for development.' Ninety per cent of the queries that businesses come to us with surround employment issues such as discrimination, and maternity and paternity rights. The Model Workplace is an excellent reference source if you employ staff.

Download Business Link's "The No-Nonsense Guide to Government Rules and Regulations for Setting Up Your Business". This is a very useful guide when starting out in business. It covers in simple terms those things a business needs to know about taxes, health and safety regulations, data protection and more.

Read HM Revenue & Customs' (HMRC) new guide for employers thinking of taking on a member of staff for the first time, outlining their tax obligations.

Moving targets

Free support helps deal with red tape, but it is a moving target. Several significant changes in legislation over the past 10 years ensure there are always new issues to deal with. We have made over 60 fact sheets on the most common regulatory problems faced by businesses. We keep records of how many fact sheets people download from our website and request over the phone, which gives an indication of regulatory changes.

The following is a list of the items that have caused the highest number of requests for fact sheets.

Here for help

At the start of this article I mentioned three things that you must accept in dealing with red tape: most regulations are necessary, they won't go away and the only way to get round them is to tackle them head on.

We can't cut through the red tape for you, but this article will provide you with some of the tools you need to run your business more efficiently, and you can find more by checking in at <http://www.red-tape.org/>.

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