After a difficult second half of 2008, I know I’m not the only one hoping for a better year ahead. Unfortunately, it looks like the economy will be getting worse before it gets better. That means more tough times ahead for FPB members.

The FPB runs a helpline for members to call when they need advice and information on running their businesses. Over the past three months, the biggest increase in calls has been from members asking for assistance with employment-related issues, including redundancies.

Owner-managers of small businesses are generally good at the one-to-one relationships that make a business work, but with a disciplinary or conduct issue, it is so important that the correct procedures are followed from the start. Also, concerns about whether or not to employ staff are being complicated by legislation on the horizon.

In April, the right to request flexible working hours will extend to parents with children up to the age of 16. The government will also be implementing the EU’s Directive on Temporary Agency Workers in the next few months, which may be an issue for those bakeries and shops that use agency staff for periods of longer than three months. In the meantime, the FPB will be working to make sure that businesses have the know-how and support to cope with this legislation and other employment issues. Regulations change every year, so you need to be sure you have the most up-to-date and accurate guidance.

In the meantime, let me wish you a Happy New Year and all the best for 2009 from the FPB.