The Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has produced a guide to help small businesses weather the economic storm.

Managing the Downturn and Preparing for Recovery provides employers with advice on how flexible working could be used as an alternative to redundancies.

The guide also contains information on the law regarding redundancy and discrimination law and gives contacts for the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, which can provide further information.

Commenting on the purpose of the guide, Nicola Brewer, chief executive of the EHRC, said: “We understand that sometimes firms will have no option but to shed staff.

“When this happens we know business owners will want to do it in a way that is fair to all their staff and avoids the waste of time and energy taken up by grievance and tribunal processes.”

Ms Brewer went on to explain that the EHRC also wanted to show companies that by employing flexible working they could “retain good employees”.

Currently flexible working is available to those who have a child under six or a disabled child under 18 who receives Disability Living Allowance (DLA), although Tory MP Baroness Morris of Bolton is proposing an extension to those rights.