C-store retailers have voiced frustration that they will be excluded from new proposals to allow micro businesses to dismiss staff without explanation.

The government is considering introducing compensated no-fault dismissal for businesses with fewer than 10 employees as part of a radical reform of UK employment law.

The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) said it would press for changes so the plans would cover the small business category, which covers up to 50 employees.

“The focus on micro businesses is very problematic,” said ACS public affairs director Shane Brennan.

Store owner Dave Newman, who trades in Hastings, East Sussex, said the definition of small businesses should be clarified. “This won’t help most c-stores. I employ 24 staff and am a small business. Why judge the size of a business by its headcount? Some engineering companies have million-pound turnovers and employ six people.”

He added that businesses with larger workforces would be more likely to have employee concerns. “The chances are that if you employ fewer than 10 people then you have a strong, tight-knit team,” he added. “If this came into force, I’d be reluctant to take on more staff if I employed only nine or 10 people.”

However, he said he fully supported the government in principle. “Employment law is a minefield. I understand why law is there - to protect staff from unscrupulous employers. But if you’re not unscrupulous, then it’s an issue.”

Andrew Porter, of Creightons of Finaghy in Belfast, said: “I would support any relaxation of employment laws. It’s gone too far on the side of employees and genuine employers have their hands tied when it comes to staffing issues.”