In a cut-throat market, with increasingly squeezed margins and tightened timescales, it is understandable that food and drink sector businesses might not make it their first priority to read up on employment law. The trouble is, the legalities surrounding employment are such moveable feasts that not doing your homework could land you in hot water. But with a large proportion of the sector comprising micro to medium sized businesses, there is often not the specialist man-power or the time to invest in employment law prowess, a situation that is becoming all too common. 

A recent survey, conducted by an HR consultancy, made the bold statement that 'current UK employment law is bad for small business'. 39% of small businesses surveyed said that complex and ever-changing labour law stunted their desire to hire more staff. Employers shared their concerns about a lack of understanding of their employment obligations and rights, leaving them at risk of making serious errors, and incurring financial penalties or facing court proceedings as a result. 

Of particular concern to businesses was the calculation of holiday pay and requests for flexible working, both of which have been subject to recent legal expansion and much controversy in the press. Overall, 75% of businesses surveyed said that keeping up with changes to legislation was a significant drain on their time. 

Unfortunately, navigating the world of employment law is an inevitable by-product of setting up a business and hiring staff. However, it does not need to be your enemy. Concentrated preparation at the outset can pay dividends further down the line. Employment contracts and staff handbooks which are appropriately drafted for nature of your business will give both employer and employee a clear road map, keeping disputes and inconsistencies to a minimum. Keeping up to date with the latest developments in the law can be easily achieved by signing up to Michelmores' weekly update. Further, the government has recognised the importance of allowing businesses more freedom to flourish, without the constant threat of litigation. One of the reforms announced post-election was to 'cut £10 billion of red tape' for businesses over the next five years. Alongside this, there are employment-specific reforms which are distinctly pro-business, including more stringent requirements to strike under the Trade Union Bill.

Employment legislation will remain an important consideration in any business, but it needn't be a tough nut to crack. Plan proactively, seek the right advice, and see labour law become a piece of cake.