A report by research company LexisNexis has found that small businesses in the construction industry have to spend 21 man weeks a year on completing paperwork required by government regulations.

The time that small construction firms spend on business administration is almost double the national average, according to the report.

It said that companies found health and safety regulations the most difficult to follow. Environmental and tax legislation also caused problems.

The study has fuelled concern that businesses are not provided with enough administrative support to deal with legislative requirements.

Jemma Macfadyen, of LexisNexis, said: “The options for advice are either to employ a professional consultant, which some firms cannot afford, or to surf the internet, which can be a hit-or-miss affair.”