The number of employment tribunals will soar to record levels this year as the Government introduces more red tape, warns employment consultants Peninsula.

Two new pieces of employment legislation will be enacted in the next two months which will be a time bomb for small businesses, says Peninsula's employment law expert Sue Whittle.

Last year employment law called the Working Time Directive helped push tribunals through the 100,000 mark for the first time. The Government is set to introduce new legislation for part time workers as well as trade union recognition.

"Confusion will be parallel to that created with the Working Time Regulations back in the autumn of 1998," Whittle says.

The Part Time Employees (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000 is due to be implemented by April 7 this year.

The aim is to ensure that part time workers are no longer treated as second-class citizens and that they receive the same treatment and benefits as their full time counterparts.

The Government estimates that six million part time workers will benefit from the added security. As well as this, trade union recognition will follow shortly afterwards, which Whittle warns is severely complex and detailed.

Again the problem lies in the fact that there is limited time for the owner manager to get to grips with the legislation, which will create a burden on the small business.

"Money is not the only problem for small businesses, there is also the question of the time that is involved," Whittle says. "With regards to legislation affecting part time workers, the small business and broker community will need to be looking at, for instance, contracts and statement of main terms of employment to ensure that they apply to both full time and part time workers.

"In many cases they will have to

re-write these for part time workers."

Whittle believes that one of the main problem areas will be when full time workers wish to become part time.

Problems arise when an employer has to show an individual cannot move to part time work because the needs of the business outweigh the needs of the individual.

Whittle adds: "Unless there is an increase in employment red tape knowledge, I fear that tribunals amongst small businesses will only increase."