Health and safety regulations are the most expensive form of red tape for small firms, according to new research.
The study carried out by the Forum of Private Businesses (FPB), which represents 25,000 small and medium-sized businesses, questioned about 500 companies. Some 30% of respondents cited health and safety as the biggest red tape cost.
PAYE, tax and National Insurance rules were voted the costliest by 25% of those surveyed, while 11% placed maternity and paternity rights at the top of their list.
FPB national chairman Len Collinson revealed the results of the survey at the first Small Firms Summit, sponsored by Barclays and held in Westminster recently. He commented: "Regulations are the bane of the smaller business owner. They are costly in administration and a distraction from more profitable activity.
"Smaller businesses feel the cost of red tape more acutely than their larger competitors as they have fewer resources to deal with it. These results show that health and safety rules are thought of as particularly onerous."
Managing director for Barclays local business, Alison Hopkins, added: "We know only too well that many small business owners worry about regulation. A relationship-managed service from their bank should help to alleviate these regulatory headaches and it's worthwhile businesses using supporting software to help guide them through the maze."

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