By Marcus Leach

Red tape is crippling businesses and the coalition government is unlikely to do anything about it, according to a new survey of senior business managers and company owners.

Two thirds of the 424 respondents to the Employer Survey — a substantial majority — felt that many aspects of human resource (HR) management were becoming too complex for them to manage.

The survey, carried out by Bibby Consulting and Support, shows that company after company put the blame on stifling bureaucracy, with frustration and anger directed at “red tape and time spent on unnecessary matters rather than running a business”. Senior business figures referred with dismay and resignation to "forever changing rules and regulations”, a “minefield of employment law”, and “crippling legislation”.

Worse still, businesses appeared to have no faith that the current government would ease their legislative burden. Indeed, many who took part in the survey complained of "spiralling bureaucracy" and said they were preparing themselves for an impending "flood" of new rules and regulations.

As well as the volume of employment law, its complexity and frequency of change, UK business owners and managers were concerned about the erosion of management. It was widely felt that the 'playing field' was sloped in favour of the worker. Also, the 2010 Equality Act was not really understood and to some extent it was feared.

"While the Bibby Employer Survey showed that many companies felt able to handle a large amount of HR issues in-house, such as recruitment and training, there were clearly areas of HR that presented real challenges to companies. These included disciplinary issues and tribunals which many felt were a 'minefield' where management was potentially vulnerable," Bibby Consulting & Support managing director Michael Slade said.

"We anticipated that some companies would express exasperation and frustration. And we knew that some would demand that something should be done about the situation. But we were more than a little surprised to hear a significant number of business leaders express genuine anger and even resignation that the state of affairs was simply going to get worse. Indeed, everyone involved in business should be more than a little worried by such sentiments — and so should the government.

"The problem is getting worse and we believe it is time the government stopped talking about tackling bureaucracy for businesses and did something about it — and the sooner the better."

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