Complicated payrolls have made pay disputes the most common cause for employment tribunals.

A study by one of the UK’s leading employment law firms has discovered that almost 100,000 tribunals a year are prompted by complaints about unauthorised deductions from pay packets and demands for wage equality.

Employment Law Advisory Services (ELAS) found that 1,000 tribunals result from employees not even being given a regular payslip by their bosses.

ELAS’ spokeswoman Annabel Dawkins says firms are now demanding specialist help to avoid getting into trouble because of confusion about what they describe as a “blizzard” of wage regulations.

“Businesses sometimes get overwhelmed by the sheer complexity of handling workers’ pay. Our research showed that small and medium-sized firms in particular can get phased by the laws and regulations impacting on pay and how they apply to their workforce.

“Faced with potentially disastrous consequences of getting an employee’s pay even slightly wrong, SMEs we spoke to said they needed more specialist help to cope.”

ELAS provides varied support on a range of employment issues such as payroll support to businesses ranging from bakers to major law firms and plumbers to Premier League football clubs.

It found that the most recent figures available show that grievances about unauthorised deductions, equal or National Minimum wages and the lack of pay slips together accounted for 98,806 employment tribunals in the UK in the year to 31st March 2008.

That total is more than twice the number of people claiming unfair dismissal, nearly four times the number of sex discrimination cases and almost 25 times the volume of complaints about race discrimination.

The proportion of wage disputes was swollen by a ten-fold rise in equal pay claims over the last five years.

ELAS’ research included a survey of 2,000 businesses across Britain with 73.6% of respondents declaring that payroll services would be the workplace function they would most like to outsource because of the difficulties it caused and the time it took up.