Major legislation and policy shifts which will affect small to medium businesses are on the 2013 political agenda.
Business NZ CEO Phil O'Reilly said one key area that will directly impact SMEs is a push to reduce compliance costs, he said.
"I think this year we'll see the launch of some web-enabled services that should really cut costs for business."
Other developments SME owners should keep an eye on are proposals to tighten timeframes in the Resource Management Act which could impact builders, developers and financiers and plans to reduce motor vehicle warrants of fitness from every six months to once a year.
"That will not be great news for motor mechanics, but will be great for small businesses running a vehicle fleet," O'Reilly says.
Some of the impacts of any legislative or policy shifts on the agenda may be indirect to SMES rather than direct, he says.
Business NZ recommends SME owners wanting to know what the year holds visit the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment website and read up on the Business Growth Agenda, which outlines government plans and policies aimed at promoting growth in the key areas of innovation, export markets, infrastructure, workplace safety, capital markets and natural resources.
Some of the specific issues Business NZ has made recommendations on, and which SMEs should be aware of, include:
* Apprenticeships: a new policy for apprentices with more funding, no age limits, higher educational content and larger incentives for construction-related apprenticeships.
* Vocational pathways: Five 5 new 'vocational pathways' are to be established this year signposting subjects students should take at school to get into career paths they want (in construction, manufacturing, primary sector, service sector & social services), thereby gaining more of the skills needed by New Zealand businesses.
* Engineering skills shortage: The Government this year is directly funding 700 extra places for engineering students, and New Zealand universities are re-prioritising to create a further 300 places.
* Minimum Wage Act: Changes to allow for a starting out wage.
* Employment Relations Act: This will remove the requirement for unions and employers to reach agreement on collective bargaining; it will also extend flexible working arrangements to a wider range of employees and remove the need for non-union members to be employed under a relevant collective agreement for the first 30 days of employment. It will allow employers to opt out of negotiations for a multi-employer agreement and will allow pay reductions for partial strikes or low-level industrial action.
* Waste Minimisation Act: Possible review of the waste levy.
* Local Government Act: Potential reform to streamline resource consenting and reduce development contributions.
* Water reform: Possible implementation of Land & Water Forum recommendations such as the requirements for meters.
* Earthquake strengthening: Possible changes to strengthening requirements for earthquake-prone buildings. The impact will be on building owners but will flow through to many businesses, including SMEs.
* Less frequent warrant of fitness checks: Reduced vehicle-related costs for SMEs.