We're 'EU outlaws', admit Britain's bosses

Article date: 19 June 2001

MILLIONS OF British businesses are unwittingly breaking the lawby failing to keep up with EU regulations, and could be subject tohuge fines, it was revealed today.

More than one million small and medium-sized businesses* admitthey're not sure they are complying with up-to-date EU laws,according to independent research commissioned by leading insurerNorwich Union.

And three out of four bosses say they haven't made any changesto their business practices as a result of EU laws.

Businesses in the manufacturing industry are the worst offenders- almost nine out of ten revealed they have never made any changes- compared to businesses in the retail sector, where over a thirdhave implemented changes as a result of EU law.

Norwich Union's 'EU Outlaws' research also reveals:

  • Half of bosses have never made a risk assessment to identifyand control safety hazards to their work force - although this isa requirement under EU law
  • Three out of four businesses don't even bother to find outinformation about EU law or keep up with changes inlegislation
  • Of those, three quarters say they're too busy to do so or it'snot a priority
  • Three in five bosses (61 per cent) think the UK is morestringent at enforcing EU laws than other countries.

Peter Knowles, head of small commercial markets at NorwichUnion, said: "Businesses are under increasing pressure to maintaintheir profits in an increasingly competitive world, as well ascoping with the day-to-day running of their business.

"Hundreds of EU laws are passed each year affecting every areaof business on every level. Legislation is constantly changing inareas such as employment, health, safety and fire regulations. Ifworrying about what's happening in the EU isn't a priority andbusinesses don't keep on top of these changes, they could bebreaking the law, and putting their business and staff atrisk."

Norwich Union has produced a free guide - called 'UnravellingEuropean Business Law' - which outlines the main areas oflegislation about employment, health, safety and fire, as well asgiving information on how EU laws affect businesses. The guide alsoprovides a list of website addresses where further help and advicecan be obtained.

Peter Knowles added: "Three out of four employers told us it wasvery difficult, if not impossible, to get hold of information aboutchanges to EU regulations.

"This guide gives businesses access to the information they needat their fingertips so they can find out how EU law affects them -and feel confident they are not breaking the law. "

Stephen Alambritis, from the Federation of Small Business, whichhas endorsed Norwich Union's campaign, said: "It's not surprisingthat research shows that British businesses place little priorityon keeping abreast of the latest EU laws when it comes to theday-to-day running of their business operations. But, ignoranceabout developments in EU regulations may prove to be far morecostly than imagined, with heavy fines up to £50,000, a distinctpossibility for non-compliance.

"We support guides, such as the one produced by Norwich Union,which provides small businesses with plain English information andadvice about EU laws and legislation."

For a free copy of Unravelling European Business Law ringFreefone 0800 0280939


Notes to Editors
*Source: Department of Trade and Industry: Small and MediumEnterprise statistics (SME) for the UK, 1999 and independentresearch commissioned by Norwich Union.

Norwich Union commissioned an independent survey of 250 SMEs.The survey was carried out in May 2001

Norwich Union Insurance is the UK's largest general insurer -insuring 700,000 businesses across the UK. It provides a wide rangeof covers from commercial property to motor trade.

CGU plc and Norwich Union plc merged on 30 May 2000 to createCGNU plc, the UK's largest insurance group and one of the top-fiveinsurers in Europe with substantial positions in other marketsaround the world, making it the world's sixth largest insurer basedon gross worldwide premiums.

CGNU's principal business activities are long-term savings, fundmanagement and general insurance, with worldwide premium income andretail investment sales from ongoing business of over £27 billionand assets under management of more than £210 billion.

From October 2000, the combined life and pensions, generalinsurance and retail fund management businesses in the UK operateunder the Norwich Union brand, while the institutional investmentbusiness operates under the Morley Fund Management brand.

Norwich Union's news releases are available on this website

For further information or to arrange an interview contactMatthew Buchanan or Anja Kueppers at QBO on 020 7379 0304, or LizNicholson or Jenny Chapman at Norwich Union on 08703 666868

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